"Tales of the Lamp," the final production of the school year by the Payson High School Drama Department, promises to be unique in several respects.
Unlike the typical theatrical experience, where students work from a script that's already written, they created this one themselves. John Siler, PHS drama assistant, explains how it came about.
"We wanted to do an Arabian Nights-type show, but we couldn't find anything good," he said. "Everything was either bad language, bad characters, bad plot, or bad dialog, so we decided to write it ourselves."
The advanced acting class took on the task, breaking into groups with each one writing a tale or act for the show. At first, according to Siler, there was some resistance.
"They balked," he said. "They were unsure, because it was not what they were used to; they were used to having a script.
"When we said, no no no, we're going to do the whole thing, they were like, oh goodness, but now that they're into it they're really cranked up. The kids have been quite innovative, and I hope people will come and see it."
The play is being held in the Studio Theater behind the PHS auditorium, a venue that offers theatre goers a more intimate experience and allows the cast more flexibility. Another unique characteristic of "Tales of the Lamp" is the utilization of double proscenium staging.
"It's very, very different from most styles," Siler said. "The audience will be in two sections facing each other and down through the middle will be the runway, which is part of the stage. So the students will be acting the full length of the studio with audiences sitting in two sections looking at each other.
"There's a small stage at either end with a runway between them so it looks like a big capital ‘I'. We call it ‘intimate theater.'"
Senior Hillary Scott directs "Tales of the Lamp," and created the two genies who serve as bridges between the tales.
"They do interim dialog to tie the acts together," Siler said. "Both have their own lamp, and they play a very big part in the end, which is very unusual -- not what you'd expect it to be."
Senior Anita Meggitt and junior Danny Neff play the genies.
"They actually play off each other rather well," Siler said. "He's tall and she's short, so not only do you have the difference in sex, you have this difference in size. And where Danny is quiet, Anita is the opposite. They're as diametrically opposed as two people can be."
While Siler was very secretive about the content of the three individual tales that comprise the play, he did refer to one as a reverse "Beauty and the Beast."
"It's is about a very beautiful woman who is very mean," he said. "By a spell she becomes ugly and she learns what it's like to be on the other side, so when she regains (her beauty), she has a different attitude. I guess it's what you could call an attitude adjustment, Arabian style."
Besides Scott and Meggitt, other seniors taking the PHS stage for the last time include A.J. Hlavacek, Ben Tackett, Myrena Still, and Mick Stern.
Tickets, available at the door, are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, $2 for Longhorn Pride cardholders, and free for Thespians.