Drama Dept. Takes Show On The Road

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"The Phantom of the Soap Opera" is hitting the road.

The first production of the year by the Payson High School Drama Department is being packed up lock, stock and mask and trucked to the Valley, where it will be one of just three main stage efforts presented at the Arizona State Thespian Conference Nov. 16 and 17. The annual gathering of high school theater students attracts some 1,200 delegates from throughout the state representing "40-some" high schools, drama department instructional aide Kathy Siler said.

"Each school in attendance can bring a one-act play or an individual event a monologue, duo acting or pantomime," Siler said, "but the three main stage plays are chosen from video tapes that are submitted."

While it's an honor to be chosen, she said, it's also a big job taking a full-scale production on the road.

"Traveling a show is always a challenge," Siler said. "You have to take apart the set, get it in a truck, set it back up."

Then there is the cast and crew.

"We're taking 32 students to the conference, but there's a lot more people involved in the production. They'll come down and join us that day," Siler said.

Despite the challenges of presenting the show in the Valley, she said it is well worth the effort.

"Being able to perform in front of 1,200 theater people is an absolute joy," she said. "They know theater. They are attentive and appreciative. It's an indescribable feeling. Right now, our kids are kind of worried about it. But after it's over they'll live on a high for several weeks."

Written by Craig Sodaro and based "ever-so-loosely" on Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hit, "The Phantom of the Soap Opera" revolves around an unknown person who is causing havoc in the TV studio that is home to the hit soap opera "As the Heart Burns." When the leading actress is kidnapped by the phantom, it's anybody's guess who's behind the mask.

The play's actress-abductor ends up professing his undying love to his prisoner. Meanwhile back at the studio, the soap's director is going crazy without his female lead.

PHS sophomore Billy Chester plays the Phantom, while sophomore Lindsay Ashbrooke is the soap's leading actress, and junior Andrew Steedman is the harried director. Thespian Society President Ryan Hilgendorf, a senior, is the production's stage manager.

The drama department is also taking a one act play to this year's conference "I'm One" by Vince Hardin.

"It's about gang violence," Siler said.

In addition to the performances, the conference features workshops on acting, production, set building and other aspects of theater. This year it is being held at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee.

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