By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
When the lights come up on opening night Friday, it’s not just going to be about entertaining the audience but also providing them with a lesson to take home.
Students from Anderson High School’s theater department have been preparing for upcoming shows. First up this weekend is “Spoon River Anthology,” in which the dead residents of Spoon River, Ill., talk about life experiences.
“(The message is) just kind of live life to its fullest and don’t take anything for granted,” said cast member Kaylee Keesling.
Cast member Riley Weipert used a gambling reference from the show to describe one of the lessons. He said that if people aren’t willing to take a chance, a risk, they’re not going to gain as much from life.
“There’s so many characters, they (the audience) should be able to relate to one,” said theater teacher Tiffany Jackson, who directs the shows.
There is comic relief so that it all doesn’t get too heavy. The show opens this weekend and the cast has put in over 120 hours of practice.
Being together for the amount of time they are, it becomes a sort of family atmosphere, Weipert said.
“There’s no single lead actor. Everyone is stars in their own way,” he said.
In his four years of high school, Zach Myers said he’s never seen less drama in preparing for a performance.
The cast is supportive of one another and doles out constructive criticism, he said.
Matt Raines, who plays the role of a sound tech in “Spoon River” and acts in December’s “A Christmas Tuna,” said he likes getting to be the center of attention and that the fun of acting is getting to be someone else.
Plus, he said he gets to entertain while perhaps providing a lesson.
Both he and Myers said they like making something like a book or play come to life.
Myers, who acts in both plays, said it’s challenging to prepare for both at the same time, but that he always wants to push himself.
“I have loved every single moment of it,” he said. “There’s not been a single second I wanted to be out of it.”
He added that he’s learned from his experiences. “There’s always something I take from every show,” he said.
Casey King has a cast role in “Spoon River” and is the stage manager for “A Tuna Christmas” and said he just likes helping people enjoy something.
He said he’s always been organized, but that the role of stage manager has really “fine tuned” his managing skills.
“I like acting, but backstage is a whole different world,” he said.
In “A Tuna Christmas,” residents of Tuna, Texas, fight with one another over a Christmas decorating contest and the threat of the Christmas Phantom.
King summed it up as two actors playing over 20 characters, including women, with an alien abduction, and said people should walk away laughing with the “to expect the unexpected.”
Jackson said she wants to push her students as actors and let them know they can be whatever they want in life as long as they challenge themselves.
Opening night for “Spoon River Anthology” is Friday at 7 p.m. in the Anderson High School auditorium.
The shows are $5 per person, free for staff and faculty, and more information about the theater department can be found on its Facebook page: AHS Theatre Department.
“Come out and see the show for yourself,” Myers said. “In every story, there’s something you can take out of it.”
Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.