Amanda Foote, a backstage hand/actress in the upcoming Dallas Senior High School production of Rick Abbot’s play “Play On!” wonders, on stage and off, if the high school group “will ever get it right” or if the play will finally be presented next week.
“Really, for the first two scenes everybody is freaking out,” Foote said. “There are huge technical problems and we go home every night and re-do everything.”
But that’s the idea of this production and the veteran senior, who will major in musical theatre at Muhlenburg University next year, is up to the challenge.
The murder mystery - a play within a play - tackles the complications, problems and perils of producing a play. In her role as a protagonist stage hand, Foote is up against the strong-willed writer of the play, played by Catherine Blankensop, who changes sets, cues, lighting and script randomly, angering and upsetting the rest of the cast.
Blankensop, a shy freshman before auditioning for this play, took on the challenge as the antagonist playwright, and is enjoying the role. “I just love it and guess I just took to it and it had really transformed me,” she says of herself. “Everything in the play goes wrong because of me and I love to go all the way with it.”
Could there be a theatre career in her future? “It’s too early for me to say, right now. I’m taking it all in, let’s say.”
Play advisor Harry McKeown wants Blankensop to explode, be bubbly and almost obnoxious. He says the students have worked exceptionally hard on this complicated story within a story.
On the other hand, there is a stark reality to the drama. This is the first time Nate Kalo has been on stage as an actor. “It is very stressful,” he said. “I’m whipped, but it’s very rewarding and I am sure stretching my abilities pretending to be other people.”
Having been part of the backstage crew before, Kalo sees the play process from a different perspective now and is the embodiment of what “Play On!” is about.
“Before, I would smugly watch the actors from the sidelines; now, I look at the whole process very differently,” he says.
Realistically, Foote notes, “Some kids in school think theatre is fun, that it’s not hard. But it’s a tough job. Theatre is tough work.”
In the production, the characters are very snippy and there is a lot of stress and drama. Yet, somehow all the cast has come to care about each other by talking to each other. And some have figured out their career paths through this unique extracurricular called theatre.
To see if the Dallas High School theater students get their acts/play together, the public is invited to the Dallas Senior High School at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6.There is a $5 admission.