Centreville High's Theater Department presents Dramapalooza, its annual, student-directed, one-act play festival, Feb. 23-25, in the school theater.
Showtimes are Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m. — "New Girl," "Eat Like a Child," "Black Comedy" and "This Is a Test." Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. — "Personal Effects," "Canned Hamlet" and "Hard Candy." Saturday, Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. — All seven plays.
Tickets are $3 in advance and $5 at the door for the Thursday and Friday shows, and $5 in advance and $7 at the door for Saturday's performances. Pizza will be sold on Saturday night.
Seniors Brittney Rader and Megan Estes, 17, are directing and assistant directing "Hard Candy," about job applicants at Banff Enterprises clawing their way up the corporate ladder. "Rehearsals are going really well," said Rader. "It's awesome to work with such committed actors."
The characters range from a girl, 12, to a "50-year-old, psychotic nut," she said. "And it's very fast-paced." Estes said the audience will find the show funny and entertaining.
Rader said it's tough maintaining the actors' concentration. "It's easy to get off task because we're all peers," she explained. "But I like it because people actually listen to me and I have control."
Until now, she thought Centreville Theater Director Mark Rogers was "exaggerating" about the difficulties of directing. "I didn't know how much stress went with it," agreed Estes. "But it's a great experience. I'm learning what goes into theater productions besides acting. We have to worry about props, lighting and the whole production."
Directing "This is a Test" — about a boy named Alan who can't concentrate on an important test — is senior Ashley Sumpter, 18. As a director, she said, "You have to be responsible, write everything down, have maturity and work well with others."
For example, she said, "If an actor says, 'I have extracurricular Latin class [and can't make rehearsal]' — but that's your lead and you can't run without them — you have to negotiate with the teacher to let that person out 15 minutes early. And you push back rehearsal time."
Since many of her actors are less-experienced underclassmen, Sumpter's also learning patience: "I'll say, 'I know you can do it; you just have to practice your lines." Time management's also tricky, she said, because "We rehearse three times a week and I work two jobs."
But she has confidence in her cast and said the members work together well. She's enjoying directing and looking forward, on opening night, to saying, "I put this thing together." Sumpter said the audience will relate to the play because, "Whenever I had to take the SAT, I was thinking about [other things], and Alan does, too. He's in his own, little world during the test, but it's the test of a lifetime and he has to do well."
"Canned Hamlet" is a satirical spoof of the classic, "Hamlet." Here, Hamlet becomes suspicious when a tomato randomly kills his father. Seniors Jamal Crowelle and Nicole Gordon, both 17, are co-directors.
About 20 people are in the cast, rehearsing since early January. Gordon says it's hard sharing some of their actors with other shows with conflicting rehearsal times. But, she added, "Everybody listens to us, is really enthusiastic and wants to make the show successful."
She and Crowelle are directing together because she also has swimming practice and he has track. So because of their schedules, said Gordon, "We cover for each other when one can't be here. And there haven't been many things we've argued about."
"As a sophomore, I'd heard seniors could direct if they'd been in theater four years," said Crowelle. "And I wanted to try my hand at directing to see what it was like to put together a show and see the actors develop. I wanted to know what it means to portray your vision of a story on stage and see how it relates to an audience."
Gordon hadn't realized what a play's technical aspects entailed — "getting the set together, lights and costumes." Luckily, she said, actor Andrew Kaberline's mom is handmaking the costumes, and "they're amazing."
Agreeing that Rogers made directing look easier than it really is, Crowelle finds it "very fulfilling. Having an audience laugh at something you did with a lot of other people gives you a sense of pride."
"Eat Like a Child," about children's everyday lives, is directed by seniors Mickey DeVito and Mary Caitlin Barrett, both 18. "Since I act, I thought directing would give me more insight into acting and what goes on behind it — the bigger picture," said DeVito.
As with any show, he said, "The real energy and excitement doesn't come until opening night, so it's about getting the show to that place where the audience is the only thing you're missing." He said a director has to be strict enough so actors learn their lines and blocking. But, he added, "You have to inspire them enough that they want to have fun with it."
DeVito said directing gave him a better respect for all the different things that have to come together in a show for it to succeed, and that "it isn't all about the acting." Directing's also a huge responsibility, he said, because "There are so many people listening to you, you have to be careful what you say and do."
He called his play an "offbeat show that will be entertaining to watch. It's short and sweet and will be one of the shows you'll remember because it's so eclectic."
Barrett was "always interested in what it was like on the other side. As an actress, there's always something extra I want to add to a play; as a director, you can do it without getting criticized. And it's just cool to see it from a different perspective."
Toughest part is directing her friends. "They like to goof around," she said. "But then you have to make them work, and it's hard for them not to take it personally. Sometimes you think Mr. Rogers is being mean, but now I realize why. It takes being in his shoes; you've got to keep control."
Barrett's cast has several freshmen, and she's glad to enable them to participate. "The audience should like the show and the truth to it," she said. "I remember doing these things as kids, and I think the audience will too."
Directing "The New Girl" — a farce about high-school life when a new girl arrives in town — are seniors Sarah Langan and Brian Marchetti, both 18. "I'd seen the one-acts and thought it was cool that, as a senior, you could direct your peers," he said. "This is a play Sarah and I started writing in sophomore year as a class assignment. She wrote it, and we took her script as the basis for this show and adapted it."
"I moved here in my freshman year, so it's roughly based on my first year at school and how hard it is to fit in and make friends," explained Langan. "It's a comedy about all the crazy people I met."
She then wanted to direct her play and see it performed, but she doesn't like bossing her friends in the cast. "Like today, I had to yell at them," she said Tuesday. "But I'll probably hang out with them after rehearsal."
In community theater, said Marchetti, the director has the final say. But he's enjoying having the creative reins in his own hands now. For example, he said, "I can say, 'I want the lights to look like this, and I want you to stand there.'"
"We cast creative and funny people so we could get their ideas about the script, too," said Langan. "So it's a collaboration." Although it's a "weird comedy," Marchetti said the audience should enjoy it and, added Langan, "That's the point."
Another play, "Black Comedy," is directed by Allyson Best. A fuse breaks, chaos ensues, secrets are revealed and characters become furious. "Personal Effects," directed by Dave Barchet, shows the stresses of being a teen dealing with the opposite sex and relationships.