Tampa Bound #Throwback

GHS Drama Troupe Bound for Tampa
Friday, 06 February 2009
By Jessica Solis – staff writer, Osceola News-Gazette

They’re breaking legs left and right at Gateway High School’s drama department.

It has been a winning year for students from acting Troupe 4061, which has won an award in every competition it has entered since the beginning of the school year.  Now, the troupe is preparing for the year’s climax: a pair of performances at the Florida State Thespians competition in April.

Drama teacher Donald Rupe said he saw potential in his students; enough to have a good year in the drama competition circuit, but the accolades the group has received weren’t completely unexpected, either.

“I’m thankful, but I’m not surprised,” Rupe, a 2003 Gateway graduate, said.
In December, the troupe competed with 25 schools from around Central Florida, and was selected as one of five to take its one-act play, “Woman at a Threshold, Beckoning,” to be judged for April’s Florida State Thespians competition in Tampa, the first time the school has had the opportunity.


Last month during the District Individual Events Competition, the school won three best-in-show awards – the competition’s highest accolade – for acting and set design. The school also won awards in more categories than any other school in the district that makes up most of the Central Florida area.
For April’s state competition, the troupe also will perform “A Few Good Men” twice to audiences of more than 2,000. The play about military lawyers who uncover a conspiracy while defending a group of soldiers is one of six plays to be performed by schools from around the state, and it will be the third time a school from Osceola County takes the main stage at the competition. The first time was during Rupe’s senior year at Gateway.
The schools selected to perform at the state competition are usually established performing arts schools, Rupe said.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said.
And for the students, the class provides them a workload lighter than the usual math or science course, but still requires them to memorize lines and “break a leg” once they hit the stage.
It’s not an easy class, because what we do, it’s actually a lot,” Vincent Hannam, drama club president, said. “But it’s generally relaxing … it’s a fun atmosphere.”

Hannam, a fourth-year drama student who’s also in Gateway’s International Baccalaureate theater program, said he’s trained himself to focus on the people watching him. “I’m saying the words, but I’m also looking at the audience, trying to get the feel from them,” he said. Hannam received excellent and superior ratings in two pieces he performed during January’s district competition. “I’m just thinking about how they’re going to react,” he said.
Senior Luis Penedo has only been in Rupe’s class since last year, but said acting has given him the opportunity to learn more about himself. He, along with Hannam, will perform in April’s production of “A Few Good Men” at the state competition. “I wasn’t as shy anymore,” Penedo said. “I just try to be confident.”
Rupe, who’s been directing theater since high school, said the class not only gives students a rewarding experience, but also an outlet for him. “Obviously, I like to see the smiles on their faces, but I also like to do my art,” he said. “Everybody gets something out of it.”

 

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It’s All Greek to Me

The play I’ve been involved with for a couple months now is an adaptation of The Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus. This parred down version of that story is by Northfield Poet Laureate, Rob Hardy, and only runs about two hours.

Those three original plays of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides tell the story of how Orestes is compelled to avenge his father, Agamemnon, after he is slain by his rueful wife, Clytemnestra. Yes, Clytemnestra is also Orestes’s mother and that’s where things get tricky. With the help of sister Electra, Orestes finally does commit matricide and order is restored to the city of Argos. Or so is thought. The final act is basically a courtroom drama where Athena descends to earth and gathers a jury to decide whether or not Orestes was justified in his actions.

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Orestes is tormented by the Furies.
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Unfortunately no one is naked in our version…

This is a big deal as Aeschylus was dramatizing the cultural shift from personal vengeance to procedural litigation in Western philosophy. The playwright garnered as much ire as admiration, however, as he was also questioning his society’s fundamental belief in the gods.

History aside, it has all the elements you’ve come to love in a good Greek tragedy: Blood! Sex! Graphic knife murders! All of which I haven’t actually performed yet in my professional career. High school was the only time I’ve ever done anything Greek (nearly falling off the stage as a blindfolded Oedipus…) so it certainly has been a thrilling challenge to embody Orestes and be a part of a story that is both so relevant and completely foreign to a modern audience.

At the end of the show we have the audience members vote themselves on whether to convict or acquit little old me. In the end, every single time, I have been acquitted of my murder and what’s so fascinating is that when pressed, the audience will say that it wasn’t because they necessarily sympathized with the character – it was to end the cycle of violence. To actually show mercy to an individual no matter how cruel his crime. I know it’s Minnesota and all, but this thinking does parallel the current national mindset when it comes to the death penalty.

That and so many other themes of what constitutes “justice” is what gives this play and other classics of the era their appeal. It’s literally the beginning of our Western beliefs and the foundations of everything we’ve come to build and rely on. It’s a testament then to Aeschylus that he’s still around and still making us question what really is fair when it comes to the law.

 

 

A Triple Play

A couple weeks ago I was simultaneously involved in three different productions, wearing three distinct hats: actor, playwright and director. I love it when this happens! Even though it’s only happened once before… nonetheless it counts in my mind as being a bonafide triple threat. If I can’t dance or sing then I gotta give ’em something else.

In this case I didn’t have to go far to find my chair as a director. For those of you who don’t know I’m actually not a full-time actor and do have a day job to sustain my daily ragers. I’m what they call a “desk-jockey” at the National Theatre for Children, who’s mission is to provide free educational theatre to the youths of America. It’s actually a pretty great company who has had a presence in schools now for decades.

I’ve been with them for a year now and as actors were being hired and tours developed I had to the notion to break free from the cubicle world and actually get involved on the creative end. The production manager went for it and I was assigned to direct the show, The Conservation Caper. A 25 minute two-hander that follows a superhero-in-training named Nikki Neutron as she learns (and consequently teaches us) all about energy technology and conservation. It ain’t winning any awards but it’s does have a slick script and my actors and I had a ball improvising a ton of comedic bits.

The gig itself only last a week (including my Labor Day – what gives?) and was only down the hall from from my regular-programmed job, but it was a great experience and I relished the chance to do something creative with my days. The show itself ended up being great and my actors, Sasha and Katie, are currently somewhere in North Carolina inspiring and educating the little ones.