A student and actor involved in the newest Payson High School drama production said real-life issues and conflicts, such as drug abuse and how teens and parents cope with them, have presented the actors with challenges in their performances.
If planning to attend the production of "Making It," be prepared to walk away with more than just an appreciation of theater and the talent of the actors.
Volunteer assistant and director John Siler, along with stage manager Tom Walling, said the play, written by playwright Hindi Brooks, offers both entertainment and life lessons for the audience, as well as the actors.
"It's about several high school students who are performing ‘Romeo and Juliet' and you get to see what goes on backstage," said student Nicole Raslund, publicist for the production and also an actor in the play.
"There are several conflicts that go on, like I play Mrs. Potter, and I have a daughter who goes to the performing high school and she is taking drugs, and I have to try and find a way to help her," Raslund said.
Actors have admitted the difficulty in playing characters in such a gritty play.
"It is a tough play, I have to say that," Raslund said. "It's like a real life situation, it's today, I mean these things happen everywhere."
She said the issues that confront the characters in "Making It" mirror the same issues teens have to face in real life.
"There's a lot of real in-your-face conflict," Siler said.
"For example, it deals with anorexia and the complications it can cause."
"It's a play within a play," Siler added. "The kids [characters in the play] are doing ‘Romeo and Juliet' and they have to deal with all the intricacies of interacting with each other and working their way through problems and issues, not only in the production of the play, but in their lives as well."
Senior Laughlin Potvin portrays a girl with anorexia.
Potvin said she has never had an eating disorder herself, so she doesn't really have a point of reference to base her character on.
"I have followed things like movies on television and how they [actors] portray anorexics, and I've read stories about anorexic or bulimic girls to get an idea of how they are," Potvin said.
She said while it has been difficult to put herself in the shoes of someone and something she has had no experience with, she has found the role exciting and has learned from it.
"I thought about not eating as much, so I could to look more the part," Potvin said. "But I didn't want to do anything unhealthy, so I decided not to do that."
Potvin said portraying an anorexic has taught her something about the problems young people are confronted with.
Learning lessons that can be applied in real life is one of the goals of "Making It," Siler said.
For example, the lead characters in the play, Alex and Lisa, are embroiled in a love triangle, so to speak.
Senior Silas Eckstein plays the lead role of Alex.
Alex is the director and is caught between two sisters, Cindy and Lisa.
Cindy, played by sophomore Julia Legassie, is enamored with Alex and tries throughout the production to steal Alex from his love interest, Lisa, (who has the part of Juliet), played by senior Jessalyn Carpino.
The part of Chuck (Romeo) is played by senior Logan Knudson.
Legassie said she used her relationship with her brother and the sibling rivalry, which often occurs between brothers and sisters, to gauge her portrayal of Cindy.
"I kind of used how me and my brother are with each other to decide how to play her," she said.
Legassie enjoys all aspects of portraying her character, but there is one part of the play in particular she likes best.
"My favorite part is toward the end when there's all this drama between Alex and Lisa and I," she said. "And everyone's mad at each other, it's just really fun."
Performance dates and times are: Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 21 at 4:00 p.m. and Saturday Sept 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $5 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, and $3 for students wearing the colors purple and gold.
Behind the scenes
The curtain rises to reveal customized scenery, props, costumes and all the glitz involved in bringing a stage production to life.
How often does the average theater patron think about how all that glitz came to be?
Kathy Siler, drama teacher at Payson High School, said the technical, or backstage side of stage productions often takes a back seat to the actors and their performances.
The unsung heroes of the stage--"techies" as they are called--do the work that provides the feast of colors and images of scenery and costumes to the eyes of the audience.
"A lot of kids get into tech theater specifically because they want to stay in the background, they don't want to be in the limelight, they don't want to be noticed," Siler said.
"There's a certain type of personality that is just very happy being in the background and helping out," she said. "That's usually the type of person that tech theater draws."
Siler said techies at the high school often put in as many as 20 hours per week in the course of the typical stage production.
"We're very lucky at Payson High School, we actually have a theater production class," Siler said. ""So they come to class for advanced tech class and they're actually rehearsing and creating during class time."
Siler said in most high schools, all of the tech work and rehearsing is done after school.
She pointed out that techies at PHS can often be found after school volunteering even more of their time to get a job done.
Two of the techies for the production--Max Still and Megan Underwood--were at a rehearsal Monday, Sept. 10.
Underwood said she has been a techie for two years and enjoys the backstage aspect of theater, more than the thought of acting onstage.
Underwood's father was also a stage technician, before he died in 2003.
"Before my dad died, he was a professional stage technician, too and that's what motivates me," Underwood said.
Both Kathy and John Siler said the contributions of backstage technicians can either make or break a production.
"They're not numerous, but they're awesome," director John Siler said. "They're attitude is just fabulous, it's not ‘How much can we slack off,' it's ‘What needs to be done' to get the job finished."