Phs Drama Department Presents 'Cyrano'

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If you haven't seen the original play by Edmond Rostand, you've no doubt seen the Steve Martin movie adaptation, "Roxanne."

If you're really a movie buff and have a few years on you, you may even remember the 1950 film starring Jose Ferrer.

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The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Friday on the Payson High School Drama Department's production of "Cyrano de B."

Ferrer won an Oscar for his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac, a role that is as coveted by actors as Hamlet.

This week, you can see Payson High School's version of the famous play starring junior Chris Bott as the eloquent swordsman with the giant nose.

The PHS Drama Department production of "Cyrano de B," an adaptation of the Rostand play by Phoenix North High School drama teacher David Helmstetter, is set in the swing era during World War II. But it's the same story movie and theater fans have come to know and love.

The story of Cyrano de Bergerac is based on an actual person, a minor French dramatist who became expert in the art of dueling because of the many insults he received about his nose. The plays and movies focus on Cyrano's love for the beautiful Roxanne (hence the name of the Martin movie), whom he is obliged to woo on behalf of Christian, his handsome but tongue-tied friend.

In the PHS production, Carina Peters is Roxanne, A.J. Hlavacek is Christian, and Calvin Legassie is DeGuiche. Also featured are the PHS Swing Dancers and Club Singers.

Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Friday, with Rim Country Middle School music teacher Mike Buskirk's Payson Jazz Band playing from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. before the two evening performances.

Tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students (first through 12th grades), $2 for Longhorn Pride cardholders, and free for Thespian cardholders.

The PHS Drama Department showed off its collective performing skills earlier this month at the Central Arizona Acting Festival in Apache Junction, outperforming some 20 other high schools from around the state.

"Sisters," one of four one-act issue plays that were performed in Payson in December, took top honors at the festival with a superior ranking. It stars Shannon Horton, Lanie James, Amber Keller, Myrena Still, Chris Ross and Mick Stern.

Set aboard a cruise ship, "Sisters" is about an aggressive, pushy woman who gets on everybody's nerves and her quiet sister who puts up with her.

"She annoys all the other passengers to the point that they get together and say we're going to do something about her, and it involves knitting needles," John Siler, volunteer theatre assistant, said. "It's kind of a dark comedy, but a funny comedy. It's about what happens to big-mouth people who are bullies."

The festival also featured a number of individual events, including monologues, pantomimes, acting scenes, musical theater, and a catch-all category for everything else called potpourri.

A number of PHS drama students competed in these events.

"We took a superior in dual acting, with Mick Stern and Jared Winebrenner doing a cutting from the play "The Producers," Siler said. "It was quite good; it was rather excellent, really."

Siler was especially proud of a quartet of students who earned a superior in the potpourri category.

"It was a fight scene, a hand to hand combat scene called ‘Action Figures,'" he said. "It involved two guys with these life-sized action dummies, and it got pretty wild.

"First they're walking the dummies through and then there's this click and the dummies start moving on their own. Then the dummies fight with each other and then they start fighting with the people."

Ben Tackett and Ross played the dummies, while Taylor Johnson and Danny Neff were their owners.

"They took a superior," Siler said. "They had everybody standing and screaming, and they made it all up."

The students utilized an acting technique Siler and wife, Kathy, the PHS drama instructor, teach called close combat.

"It looks closer than a lot of the stuff you see, like at the Renaissance Festival," Siler said. "A lot of that looks as phony as can be."

The PHS contingent also took a number of excellents, including a song from "Gypsy" by Horton and Jamie Rusovick, and a rendition of Abbot and Costello's famous "Who's On First" by Rusovick and Peters.

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