Junior Ariel Brown steps out of the dressing room, sporting a lacy pink headband, a periwinkle dress with flecks of ivory, and a pair of spotless white Keds. Playing the character of Truvy Jones in Steel Magnolias, Brown pulls her hair back and takes a deep breath.
“Once you get in costume, it’s like you actually become that character, and nothing else matters but your scene,” Brown said. “It’s as if your character were really you.”
Although she has slipped into the shoes of other characters before, this is Brown’s first time participating in the annual Theatrical Showcase, presented by the Acting 2/3 and Musical Theatre classes. The show begins at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Friday the fourth, and concludes with a second performance on Saturday at the same time. The actors will be performing highlights from Broadway and off-Broadway productions: Annie, Pygmalion, Last Minute Adjustments, 9 to 5: The Musical, Arsenic and Old Lace, Dames at Sea, Steel Magnolias, Cinderella and Memphis.
Brown and her classmates have been preparing for the showcase since the beginning of February. The process started with assigning parts and music, then grew more complex as directors and actors collaborated. Memorizing lines, altering costumes and running through stylized choreography are only parts of the struggle.
“What we’re doing is actual hard work,” Brown said. “You’re practicing outside school, inside school, and it takes a lot of dedication. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do this.’ It’s like, once you start, you have to finish it.”
The time constraints and extra difficulty have caused some students to stress about the production, as time ticks closer and closer to opening night. Perfectionism and set malfunctions cause everyone to get a little “huffy,” Brown said. Coupled with AP tests for some and finals for all students in the next few weeks, members of the cast are still united in their desire for a good show.
“Everyone’s been a little stressed out about how rapidly it’s approaching,” junior Courtney Nowlin, who plays Ruby in Dames at Sea, said. “But I definitely think we’ll be able to pull it together. I think there’s a lot of potential there so far.”
Everyone has kept this potential in mind throughout tech week, Nowlin said, when the actors stay after school until 7:30 p.m. refining unpolished pieces of the show. Returning Musical Theatre and Acting 2/3 members, such as Nowlin, assist the new kids with complicated aspects, such as upbeat dancing in “Good Times Are Here to Stay,” a musical number in Dames at Sea. This has proven a particular challenge for Nowlin, who has helped multiple students who “haven’t been in many shows before,” encouraging them to keep working and show their full prowess.
“Every single person has an opportunity to shine and show off their talents,” Nowlin said, “and so knowing that you get that opportunity to show off what you’ve been learning makes people motivated to get it done. … It’s a new experience on stage.”
Junior Isaac James, an Acting 2/3 student, is also looking forward to tackling new challenges before the curtain. His scene in Pygmalion requires the use of standard British accents, and even a cockney dialect for two of the scene’s actors. His director, Mary Margaret Coffield, gives him and the other students DVDs for speech therapy, which teach practices for developing realistic accents. James also goes through his own preparations, partaking in yoga and deep breathing before his scene begins. All of these exercises help him through the stress of transforming into his character.
“I have really liked the process of growing as an actor,” James said, “because in this class we learn different ways of how to do something than we have in the past. … We have a bunch of kids who all do different things coming together and sharing their ideas.”
Despite some bumps along the way, it’s this sharing of ideas that Brown says keeps the cast members going, grinning as they try on ridiculous dresses with enormous pink bows or short skirts and feather boas.
“This is fun. This is what we do,” Brown said. “We may have all different types of hobbies, but this is the one thing we have in common. Everyone loves to sing and dance and act. … We just have to remember to be the best we can be.”
For ticket reservations, call (573) 214-3119.
By Lauren Puckett
Here is a look at what is in store for the audience May 4 and 5 at 7:00 p.m.[nggallery id=94]
Photos by Abbie Drown