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Rocky Run Middle Presents 'Get Smart'

Next summer, Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway will star in a movie version of "Get Smart." But the students of Rocky Run Middle School are beating them to the punch and reviving this classic comedy first.

With a black, white and gray set bordered by a frame to suggest a TV screen, Rocky Run will present a stage version of the hugely popular 1960s television series, "Get Smart."

Showtimes are Friday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., in the school's little theater. Tickets are $5; e-mail Theatre Arts Director Julia Wharton at julia.wharton@fcps.edu.

The three parents who created the set are: Karen Emsley, painting and illustration; plus Lois Moore and Craig Dykstra, design and construction.

"I watched 'Get Smart' as a kid, on black-and-white television," said Wharton. "And partly because the world of 'Get Smart' is so black-and-white, good vs. evil, very simplistic morality, the black-and-white environment really makes sense to me."

"So when I decided to do this show for middle school, I thought it would be cool to do it in black-and-white, and the two moms had the idea of building a TV frame around the stage," she continued. "I've had the good fortune of working with some great artists in theater who've helped me visualize in colors and patterns, and it helps define the mood and the whole ambience."

It also created a challenge to have all the props and costumes in black and white. But, said Wharton, "It's going to feel like a unique world. This will really tickle the generations familiar with 'Get Smart.' And the kids think it's really cool; unlike their normal, entertainment world full of color, this really catches their eye."

Eighth-grader Joey Biagini plays Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. "He's goodhearted, makes a bunch of mistakes and is kind of clumsy," said Joey. "He's a secret agent for CONTROL, the organization for good, which fights against KAOS."

In the story, Professor Dante has developed the Inthermo, a powerful weapon, and KAOS wants to steal it to use for evil purposes. CONTROL must prevent that from happening.

Joey says he's good in roles where his character is clumsy, not brilliant. The hard part, he said, is that, "We practice from 3-5:30 p.m., every day, and I'm in every scene, so I don't get many breaks." But he loves playing Smart because "he's a very funny person and I like to make people laugh."

Portraying Smart's sidekick, Agent 99, is eighth-grader Connor Haggerty. "She's his assistant and very proper — all business," said Connor. "She's smart, clever and knows exactly what to do in any situation. She's also selfless because she gives the credit to Max and always sticks up for him. When the chief thinks he's doing something wrong, she tries to fix it."

Connor saw "Get Smart" on You Tube and thought it was really funny. And she finds her part interesting because "I like being in a role where I help somebody at the top." Hardest, she said, is "trying to act like her in the TV show, having to cut people off during and argument and memorizing really long lines."

But she enjoys acting and playing a secret agent because it's so much fun and because "Maxwell Smart is such a goofy, not-so-smart character and Agent 99 is the complete opposite — but they become friends and help each other out." Connor says the audience will "laugh a lot and like the dialogue and funny lines and how we act when we say them."

Seventh-grader Mitchell Buckley plays the chief, the head of CONTROL and Agent 86's and 99's boss. "He's usually calm and nice, but he's under a lot of stress," said Mitchell. "So when things go wrong, he gets mad; [often] at Agent 86 because he messes up a lot. It's fun because I like yelling."

Mitchell also has lots of lines to memorize but, he said, "It's a pretty big part and I love being on stage and performing. It's a really funny play, and it'll be interesting for the audience watching all the stuff that goes on in it."

Playing Mr. Big, the leader of KAOS, is seventh-grader Andrew Freix. "He's really rich and he thinks he's amazing, but he doesn't do any work, himself," said Andrew. "And although his name is Big, he's really short. His assistant carries around a stool for him to stand on."

He, too, likes his role. "It's fun; I've never been the bad guy in any of the plays I've done," said Andrew. "And I get to be funny, as well as serious." However, he added, "Since I haven't been a bad guy before, I had to learn how to act mean. And I have to drop my voice 'cause it's not really that low, yet."

But he said it's neat "getting people to do what I want them to do — I just snap my fingers. And having all the power is fun." He said the audience will enjoy the show because "it's really outrageous and over-the-top and Joey does a really good job as Max. And since it's based on a TV show, lots of the older folks will remember it, and it'll bring back good memories for them."

Eighth-grader Preston Rhodes portrays Inthermo-inventor, Professor Dante. "It can incinerate stuff like steel — and that's just the scale model," he explained. "The full-size one can blow up a bunch of big stuff."

Preston says his character's a "good guy, [although] kind of strange. He's a smart person who can say a bunch of smart stuff and confuse Maxwell Smart, who's not the smartest person."

He likes his role because "when I say my lines, it makes me sound smart. And if there wasn't Professor Dante, a lot of what happens in the play wouldn't have happened. I'm just glad I get to be part of it because it's a fun experience. And I've met lots of people I didn't know before."

Toughest for him, said Preston, is "saying big words like 'catalytic' and 'reactive thermal concentricity' when I explain how the weapon works." Regarding the audience, he said it'll "crack up" at all of the show's funny lines.

Katrina Hilliard, 13, plays Professor Zalinka, who assists Dante. "She's like an ice queen, and she yells at her students for not picking up their trash," said Katrina. "It's a fun character, different from my own personality, and there's more to her than meets the eye." Katrina's also enjoying "yelling at people."

She said it's hard staying in character, the whole time, and not laughing at things happening in the background. And her character's different from the rest because she's "so serious and doesn't do as much silly stuff as the others. She always stays focused." Katrina said the play's like a puzzle, "figuring out what's going on, so it'll get the audience to think."

Playing Miss Finch, the chief's secretary, is eighth-grader Sara Emsley. "She's very strict, uptight and studious," explained Sara. "She doesn't like familiarity and she knows her place in CONTROL."

Sara said her character's on the phone a lot and has to "talk without stealing the stage from the others." But she likes interacting with the main characters and providing "key information to the CONTROL agents."

Aidan Quartana, a seventh-grader, portrays Mr. Big's assistant, Garth. "He's cranky and tough and gets irritated easily," said Aidan. "It's really fun, and audiences have always liked me taking orders on stage."

Hardest, he said, is being cranky because he's not that way, plus "speaking my lines while doing a lot of action." And even though he doesn't have many lines, Aidan's pleased because he gets to do several "funny actions."

He says people who saw the original TV show will connect with the play, but it'll also be "a good experience even if you're not familiar with it, because it's so funny."

Playing Princess Ingrid is eighth-grader Mallory Glover. "She's a Scandinavian princess on vacation in Washington, D.C., when CONTROL thinks she's going to be kidnapped. "They try to protect her, but she doesn't like being protected, so she tricks 86 and 99 and escapes," explained Mallory. "She's then kidnapped by KAOS, brainwashed and hypnotized."

Mallory says her character's "upbeat, feisty and opinionated and just wants to have a good time." She, too, has enjoyed meeting other people and "being a different person on stage. It's a great way to express myself." And she says the audience will like "the physical comedy, all the quirky plot twists and turns and how it pans out in the end."