The Hollister High School Theatre Department is premiering its winter production of “Play On” this weekend.
“Play On” is by Rick Abbott and tells a hilarious story of a theatre group trying desperately to put on a play in spite of maddening interference from a haughty author who keeps raving the script. Act I of the play is a rehearsal of the show, Act II is the near disastrous dress rehearsal of the show and, finally, Act III is the actual performance of the show, during which anything that can go wrong does, according to Hollister Theatre Department Director Kyle Bradley.
“It’s a comedy farce-type show where a community theater is putting on a show. So it’s a little bit of show inception, if you will,” said Bradley. “It’s a show within a show, where lots of things go terribly wrong in a very comedic way.”
As 2020 has come with a slew of challenges for both students and teachers, Bradley explained that, in order to better combat those challenges, the decision was made to cast understudies for the play.
“That’s really helped us a lot with the way things have been. So if you have kids that get quarantined, you have other kids available that are understudying the role that can stand in for them and rehearse. It’s given us an opportunity to have more kids involved in this show, which has been awesome. Because usually with a play, it’s a smaller cast and there’s not very many students involved, but we’d loved that.”
Because the understudies have worked just as hard as the primary cast, Bradley said they wanted to make sure they had the chance to be on stage.
“So we’ll be doing four performances instead of our usual three that we do. So the understudies will get to perform a Saturday matinee. So that’s really helped us a lot,” said Bradley. “The cast itself is 10 people. We have 16 students involved in the entire production and that includes understudies. So during the understudy performance there are four students who will be in both shows, the understudy show and the primary cast. But there are 10 students in each show.”
On stage, Bradley shared what sort of set design audiences will be treated to while watching the winter production.
“We have what is called a unit set. So it’s like a set that stays the same during the entire production. We built what is looking like the interior of a house,” Bradley said. “It’s set in the English country side and at a mansion there before a fancy party that they’re having.”
As for the actors in the show, Bradley said things get a little bit tricky for both the actors and the audience as the show within a show inception begins to take place.
“Our actors in the show, we’re setting the show in the 1980’s, so the actors in the show are living their lives in the 1980’s, but the show within the show is set in the early 1900’s in England,” said Bradley. “So we have some different time periods that are happening for the audience to try and keep up with.”
When deciding which play would serve as the winter production for the Tiger Theatre Company, Bradley said he went back to some of the plays he had read earlier in the year.
“Over the summer I decided to take some time and just read different plays just to see if anything inspires or something that I think would fit our cast or our students. I came across this one this summer and it just really struck me and it was really funny and fun,” Bradley said. “I think it’s a cool opportunity for students to get to play and be an actor playing an actor, if that makes sense. Whenever they’re doing a show within a show like this, I think it’s a challenge for them to try and achieve that and play kind of two different characters at the same time. The cast is largely a mainly female cast. We have a lot of female students involved in our department at this time, so I thought that would fit us well as well.”
Bradley added that for this production they will not be charging an admission price, but will be accepting donations from those interested in giving.
“We’re just doing pay what you can whenever you come to the show. I know its been a difficult year for people, so we just wanted to give people an opportunity to come see some theatre and escape for a little while into our world,” Bradley said. “So if they don’t think they can afford a show at this time, we want to welcome them to come, and if they want to donate on their way in, they’re welcome to do that as well.”
The “Play On” primary cast features the talents of Kylee Moody as Aggie Manville, Lacey Kellett as Geraldine “Gerry” Dunbar, Ruben Dutton as Henry Benish, Josie Smith as Polly Benish, Lucy Blackwood as Marla “Smitty” Smith, George Haltom as Saul Watson, Nathan Reinke as Billy Carewe, Daniela Richardson as Violet Imbry, Alexis Fischer as Louise Peary and Emily Hanner as Phyllis Montague.
The understudy cast of “Play On” features the talents of Haliena Brown as Aggie Manville, Juanita Wilson as Geraldine “Gerry” Dunbar/Phyllis Montague, Jaxon Thomas as Henry Benish/Saul Watson/Billy Carewe, Annette Gill as Marla “Smitty” Smith, Lynessa Barney as Polly Benish/Violet Imbry and Emma Spurling as Louise Peary. Bella Blackwood also serves as the Stage Manager for “Play On.”
Show times for the production are Friday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The 2 p.m. show on Saturday will serve as the understudies performance, while the remaining three showtimes will feature the primary cast.
For additional information on the student actors or the play visit the Hollister High School Theatre Department page on Facebook.