‘Out of the Frying Pan’ … and into the fire

Lead cast members seniors Pauly Johnson, Alec Ludacka, Jaylyn McDonald, & Student Director Isabelle Dale, and seniors Hunter Stone, McKenna Kreiling, and Olivia Antoniolli. Photo courtesy of Carson Bierman.

The lights illuminate the final scene of the play. The lead rises from her perch on the couch and proudly proclaims her final joyous lines sealed with a stunning countenance. She turns and joins her fellow cast, the friends that carried each other through these past months. They turn together, one final glance at the audience before the thick red velvet falls for the final time. The lines still echo in the house for just a moment longer before the audience erupts into applause, swelling even larger as the cast takes a final bow. The euphoria of the show rushes through the entire PAC. It is the blood of the theater, it’s life-giver.

These moments are the ones that stick out the most in an audience member’s mind. The thrill of the final, perfect product. But these moments are brief to those who spent months precisely preparing every detail to perfection. From the painter’s to directors, customers to carpenters, there is an army of people who work tirelessly to perfect a show such as East’s “Out of the Frying Pan” that never taste the heat of a stage light in a show, yet their work is just as priceless as the lead actors. It is this army of people that dedicate themselves for months at a time to the craft, who work themselves to the bone to see the vision realized.

Lights …

The play, “Out of the Frying Pan,” consisted of six financially struggling actors in one apartment. Each of them is trying to get the attention of a Broadway producer that lives in the same apartment building as them for a chance to get their work on Broadway. While attempting to get his attention, things inevitably go wrong for the roommates in increasingly ridiculous ways.

A show can start anywhere. It may start as an idea in a car on the daily commute. It may form slowly like a seed that takes root over a couple days or weeks before blooming into an inspiring work of art. It may also strike like a bright and beautiful bolt of lightning.

For East, each and every show must be chosen according to the type of environment and resources the theater has to offer that year. Director Nicole Chandler knows her crew options better than anyone else in the building, and therefore is tasked with building the ‘dream-team’ every show.

“It really begins with finding the right show. It has to fit perfectly like a shoe. You have to have all the right actors, the right environment. Every role must be able to be filled: there’s the actors of course, then also the tech crew, customers, and a whole army of people. It takes tons of research,” Chandler said. “You have to be able to take a couple dozen pages of words and create a true experience out of it.”

After a show is selected, the people must be found to fill the roles. And thus begins the auditioning process. The cast is first selected based on who fits better with each character. Lead cast members for “Out of the Frying Pan” included seniors McKenna Kreiling, Alec Ludacka, Hunter Stone, and Jaylyn McDonald, sophomore Pauly Johnson and junior Olivia Antoniolli.

“They had us choose a monologue from another play and they decide based on our audition which parts they think would fit us the best,” Ludacka stated.

It is the opportunity of audition that opens the doorway to theatre for many students. A doorway that often times may lead to something bigger than just a hobby. For senior Libby Nold that doorway was opened for her in middle school.

“When I was younger I was an outcast. I was often bullied because I was quiet and had a very hard time talking to other students. My parents decided to have me audition for a role in a local production. I got it, and immediately I fell in love with the atmosphere. I became a part of a family. They taught me to be who I am and to not be ashamed of it, to not let people put me down for it,” Nold said.

Nold is not alone either, and estimated 73.5 million people in the United States have said they had an encounter with theater that positively changed their life. These people are taught communication skills and creativity in a safe, fostering environment unlike any other in today’s society.

“In my classroom and on  the stage I hope to foster an environment of joy, of challenge, and of family. These kids are family, and they know they are safe,” Chandler said.

For these students theater lifts the curtain on communication and opens their eyes to a new world where they can speak freely and safely without the harsh judgments of the rest of the world.

On the other side of the curtain, the tech crew begins planning out the set. Without a proper set for the actors, a complete scene for the audience is unattainable. Stage manager Kaitlyn Grove knows very well all of the challenges a set may provide.

“You really start out only with a slab of wood, some sketches, and a dream. From that it takes months of hardwork and a team you can depend upon, but that’s where a true production is born,” Grove said.

Crewmembers are not the only members that are introduced to new worlds, either. Senior Cassidy Siebel is an experienced carpenter for East theater, and has had many enlightening experiences in the program.

“As women, we are not encouraged to learn skills such as carpentry, but in theater I can. I am able to get dirty, to work beside men, to learn to use my hands to build large pieces of furniture, and to discover a side of me I never knew I had,” Siebel said.

Camera …

Buzzing talk, high spirits laced lightly with anxiety stemming from the need for perfection. Every detail down to every stage light, every prop, every cast members spots makes the final product worth watching.

The cast itself had to make sure they were all prepared as well as fit the character well.

“I have an awful time with memorization, just in general. A lot of people have it easier when it come to memorization, but it all came together. Though it was definitely difficult,” Kreiling stated.

Other cast members are able to recall lines easier than others. Taking into account the amount of lines needed to be remembered, the cast members make sure to be as prepared as possible.

“I’ve been doing [acting] for longer than four years and it’s [kind of] become just second nature to me. The thing that happens with me when learning lines is like, yes I have to practice them but because I’ve been doing this for so long I’m really good at memorizing,” cast member Alec Ludacka stated.

And these skills were put to the test on August 20. A show is built from the foundations up, and some of the first bricks to be put down are the leading cast. Ludacka auditioned by performing a monologue from the show “THe Gingerbread Lady” by Neil Simon. He played the role of Jimmy, an actor lamenting about having lost his role in a show. Rather ironically, Ludacka’s performance landed him the role of Norman Reese in “Out of the Frying Pan”.

Once the cast members are given their roles, they must put movement and depth to their words.

“The first month, September, was more just getting the blocking down, running the lines and [knowing] where we’re supposed to go on stage, what the play means [and] why it’s important,” Ludacka added.

Some days may be harder than others. Some days the microphones won’t work, the costumes don’t fit, or the lines aren’t memorized.

“You will have hard days, no matter what,” Student Director Isabelle Dale said. “Even so, everyone here is family. No matter how mad or frustrated we get with each other, we always got each other’s backs.”

The creation of a production such as “Out of the Frying Pan” appears to create a bond. A familial bond between each member and the theater itself.

Nold said, “As hard as it is, as much as we complain, you’ll always find us coming back to each other and to the theatre.”

Action!

The night has finally arrived. Hushed whispers echo behind the curtain. There is an air of anticipation, excitement, and urgency. Animated murmurs pulse as the heartbeat of the house floor. The time has arrived. The lights dim slowly, the background music fades into nothingness, and the rich wall of red cloth rises.

The time has finally arrived the following moments that cost two months of preparation and hard-work. These following scenes are the product of the hours of labor from dozens of students.

“It’s rather magical. All this time for a short 3 days. The anticipation makes it so special,” Chandler said.

The show goes on. The actors recite their lines with remarkable truth and dance their way across the stage. It truly is magical. The effect is not lost on the audience either, frequent bursts of laughter erupt from the house.

“Comedies like [“Out of the Frying Pan”] bring laughter to the world. It’s for the audience, but it’s also for us. With the current political climate and stressful lives, the theatre presents a simple relief and enjoyment for everyone,” Technical Director Kathleen Belovsky said.

After the hour and a half spent in the house, after the curtain dropped for the last time, after the lights had dimmed and the echos no longer ringing, there was something left in the theater. The lessons that the theatre environment gives to everyone who witnesses it in action. The lessons it gives to those who listen. According to Chandler, these lessons are carried beyond the theatre and into the rest of the world.

“You have a voice,” Chandler said. “You have skills that have the power to change the world if you choose to use it. That you are able to present and express your best self, but you must be able to open that part of yourself first.”

Cecilia Cantu and Jocelyn Pinedo are staff writers for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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