Once Potomac Falls High School seniors Amanda Ellis and Helena Daniel enter their school’s auditorium, they become the Brewster sisters.
The young actresses spend their afternoons hunched over on stage, imitating elderly sisters and homicidal maniacs.
"It’s painful," Daniel joked as she rubbed her lower back.
Ellis and Daniel play Aunt Abby Brewster and Aunt Martha Brewster in the Potomac Falls High School production of Joseph Kesselring’s "Arsenic and Old Lace."
In the 1940's play, a theater critic learns on his wedding day that his aunts, the Brewster sisters, are homicidal maniacs and mental illness runs in his family.
The school's theater instructor, Jennifer Locke, advises the "sisters" to observe elderly women at Cascades Senior Center over the weekend.
THE AP STUDENTS manage to find time for homework between play practice and part-time jobs.
Ellis works at a juice bar and spends her weekends traveling to college auditions in cities like New York and Pittsburgh.
Daniel spends her weekends folding clothes at Old Navy and applying to colleges.
"I’ve applied to 19 schools," she said. "I want to be a pediatrician."
Ellis and Daniel represent a hard-working cast. Between scenes, teenage cast members spread their homework across the auditorium floor. Sophomore Ryan Ulsh cracks open his red binder and pounds on his calculator between scenes. He writes feverishly before his cue to take the stage.
"I try to do my homework whenever I get a chance, between scenes, at midnight," Ulsh said.
Freshman Gabe Herrera balances thick books on his lap and writes in a notebook after his scene with Andrews and Daniel.
BEHIND THE SCENES, Stephany Lin, a junior and head of publicity and set painting for the play, transforms a large white canvas into an outdoors scene.
"The set is coming together," she said.
The tech crew works after school and on weekends, perfecting different sets for the scenes of the play.
Andrews and Daniel agree, although the play is time consuming, it is worth the effort.
"We are all so close and it is a lot of fun," Daniel said.
At the end of rehearsal last week, Locke advised her students to "get lots of sleep and eat well."
"The winter show is always hard with everyone getting sick," she said. "But the show is coming together."