East’s Fine Arts Department will present Monk Ferris’ “Bone Chiller” on October 21st through October 23rd at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.
The play is a comedic murder mystery in which 13 guests gather at Travern Mansion on Friday the 13th for the reading of a will. However, the will is in the form of a puzzle, seemingly impossible in its solution. Whoever can solve the puzzle will inherit a fortune. That is, whoever can solve the puzzle and survive an evening filled with intrigue, humor, and murder.
Cast members have been practicing each week, preparing and working through their excitement and nervousness in order to successfully complete opening night.
Senior cast member William Dudley said that “Bone Chiller” is similar to the movie Knives Out, encapsulating that mysterious nature through its captivating characters, such as his role of Jerry Delvin, a puzzle maker.
“I play the part of Jerry Delvin. He’s kind of … a little bit quirky, but he works as a puzzle maker, he makes puzzles and all that and so he kind of guides the group along to help solve the big puzzle that they have to figure out,” Dudley said.
Fellow senior cast member Teja Davis said this year’s fall play is one that will keep the audience at the edge of their seats.
“I think it’s something that audiences would really enjoy because of its twists and turns, but it’s also pretty funny because right when you think you know what’s going on, you might just change your mind,” Davis said.
Senior cast member Skylar Thompson said that the fall play is a hands-on experience, engaging the participation of the audience and encouraging them to become the detectives of the mystery that seems impossible to solve.
“If the audience really pays attention, they can figure out who [did] it from the moment that the show starts if they pay attention to the puzzle and figure out what all the clues mean. There’s going to be a QR code in the program where the audience is going to be able to scan it during intermission and they’ll be able to guess the murderer. I just really like the interactive bit of it that the audience is going to have because it just really connects the person to the show that they’re watching,” Thompson said.
According to junior Olivia Cluchey, the structure of the show has been a significant difference from other shows, since most of the performers — even with fewer lines — or still onstage for the duration of the program, demanding that they react rather than necessarily act.
“This show is definitely a more challenging one and has a lot of potential to be very interesting and complex, while also not seeming particularly ‘advanced,’ like a huge Broadway production,” Cluchey added. “Still, the nuances lie with the actors and how they are able to grow with their character and space really can make or break the show.”
The stage in the Performing Arts Center is usually very busy, filled with crew members creating and setting up scenes. Thompson said that they’ve usually had to practice in the school’s theatre room in order to rehearse.
“[W]e just kind of build the set out of desks and chairs and we just run through maybe an act together or we run through specific scenes that need work. [L]ately, we’ve just been working on memorization and getting our lines down because it hasn’t been too long that we’ve been in rehearsals so that’s been our main focus, is just getting lines down so that we won’t mess up on stage,” Thompson said.
According to Davis, minute challenges such as memorizing lines or focusing on character work are also part of a cast member’s job amidst additional preparations for the fall play.
“I would say me specifically, I have to memorize all these lines, which I know isn’t going to be a problem in the end, it’s just a lot,” Davis said.
Dudley said that in order to play his own role well, he must dive into what it would be like if his character was a real person. The emotions, personality, and mindset of a character are all taken into consideration when he’s acting.
“[T]his is probably the biggest part I’ve ever had before, and so it’s just a lot of line memorization and working on this character and delving into the actual, like where this character is in his life and what he wants to do, what came before this, [and] what came after this,” Dudley said.
Junior cast member Casey Newman said regardless of individual problems each cast member may have, he feels comfort in knowing that the whole cast is able to work together to help each other.
“I feel like we all gel together real as a cast. We all get along, joke around together, and have a fun time. Whenever a problem arises, whether it be blocking or line delivery, we work together to figure it out and in the end it turns out okay,” Newman said.
Director Nicole Chandler also has a multitude of responsibilities, helping foster rehearsals and production along in an efficient manner. She said that she is in charge of most processes, from the day rehearsals begin to the last showing.
“As the director, it is my responsibility to create the vision of the show and help execute that throughout the rehearsal process. I’m responsible for creating the look of the show, from the actors, costumes and set and to create the movement of the show in the blocking and line delivery,” Chandler said.
Chandler said that she collaborates with Director Kathleen Belovsky to ensure that all aspects of the play are done to their standards and expectations.
“I help the actors create their characters in the rehearsal process and then collaborate with Ms. B in the build process and design of the set. Essentially, everything that is seen and heard onstage is because of a decision or collaboration I’ve been a part of,” Chandler added.
While the director and cast prepare extensively for opening night, crew members work behind the scenes to polish the inner workings of the play, from building key sets to operating the soundboard.
Senior crew member Nathan Stonehocker takes on both of these responsibilities, taking charge of major aspects of the play.
“We build everything, and for the show I’m running the soundboard, so walking through kind of an everyday thing with that is coming into the shop and just building a lot of the main projects. Like for this show, I’ve built the bar. That’s one of the main set pieces… and then running the soundboard is either doing sound effects or turning on and off microphones,” Stonehocker stated.
Senior crew member Zachary Hotchkiss talks about his new responsibilities as stage manager, and how he is responsible for the majority of things that will happen during opening night.
“[T]his year I am going to be the backstage manager, so just making sure that all the props are in place, all of the actors are where they need to be for the stage, [and] just making sure everything is in place behind the scenes so that the show can run smoothly,” Hotchkiss said.
Junior Camila Alamo is a crew member this year as well. Her job is painting sets and making sure that they are reflective to what the crew needs and what the audience imagines them to be.
“In stage crew, I am mainly a painter and I help around with the decoration of the set… There are times where most of us need to paint, but there are also times where we are divided into groups and given different tasks. Once we are done with our projects, we go around and help anyone else or we go home early,” Alamo said.
Hotchkiss and Stonehocker are both carpenters this year for the Scene Shop. They help build crucial sets for the play, such as the bar, and teach other underclass carpentry skills and how to use certain tools.
“I really enjoy [the work that I do], because part of what I do is also help teach some of the younger people that come in, like the freshman and the sophomores, so I really enjoy being able to give them that hands on experience, be able to teach them how to use certain tools and kind of show them how things need to be built and that kind of stuff,” Stonehocker said.
Alamo said that she also shows enjoyment and pride in her work. She added that even though it may be a small job, it ultimately contributes to the overall success of the play.
“I like being a painter and being part of other groups in crew like, costume crew or prop team. I feel like no matter how big or small my task may be, it is important for the show,” Alamo said.
Nonetheless, cast and crew members alike have worked harder than ever to ensure a successful premier of “Bone Chiller.” They all have expressed profound gratitude and pure joy of the return of the fall play, as well as eagerness at the prospect of working together again.
Chandler said that her favorite part is getting to work with her theatre students again.
“I’m just enjoying being back in the room with our kids creating theatre again. The laughs and creative conversations we have are the best part of our shows,” Chandler said.
Cast member Teja Davis said that although their time apart was prolonged because of COVID, she feels that things are still the same, from fall play procedures to relationships among the cast.
“I’d say the attitudes and everything are still pretty similar. We also bond really well and we’re really excited to be together, so I say it’s only affected us in the smallest ways, but the heart of the program’s still there,” Davis said.
Beliah Christian is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl