Pierson High School Students Prepare For Opening Night Next Week

Yanni Bitis, at center, directs his fellow castmates during a rehearsal of the Pierson High School student production of "Play On!" in the school's auditorium.

It’s the story of a theater group desperately trying to put together a serious and awe-inspiring play in spite of all the obstacles. The play, “Play On!” by Rick Abbot, centers around a cast of six actors trying to string a show together despite maddening interference from the eccentric playwright who keeps rewriting the script.

On Thursday, Pierson High School students were going over their lines as the play’s producer, Melissa Luppi, looked over the set to make sure everything was in place, as they prepared for their opening night, next Thursday, November 21.

“It’s a play within a play,” Ms. Luppi said of the comedy, which takes place in current times. The twist: the play within the play is called “Murder Most Foul,” and takes place in Great Britain. The students switch back and forth between English accents, and their regular voices.

The “Lazy Grazed Players” is the name of the community theater group featured in the production. The first act centers around the actors rehearsing for the show as the playwright pops in and out of scenes, changing the script as the actors already have trouble remembering their lines.

The cast tries to navigate around the changes. They come in and out of that character to talk to the director, Gerry Dunbar, played by Yanni Bitis, a senior at Pierson High School and regularly featured actor on the school’s stage.

“They’re messing up. There are mishaps. The sound system fails. The phones start ringing,” Ms. Luppi chuckled.

After intermission, act two is the disastrous dress rehearsal. The final act is the community theater’s actual performance, in which everything that can go wrong, does.
“By opening night, it’s just a disaster,” Ms. Luppi explained.

Although the script calls for chaos, the students beg to differ when it comes to their own production, and are looking forward to a perfect performance on opening night.
Ryan Brown, a junior, is playing Billy Carewe — an actor who doesn’t know his lines, and isn’t sure when he’s even supposed to deliver them.

“This show is really funny,” Ryan said while sitting on the edge of the stage as other cast members rehearsed on set. ”There’s a lot of work that’s going into it. You have to know the plot and story of two shows and act two parts. It’s a lot of work. It’s going to be a really great show.”

Eva Doyle, a senior who has acted in all of the school’s plays and musicals since middle school, will be playing the maddening playwright, Phyllis Montague.

Eva said her character lives at home with her 10 cats and is extremely involved in the theater with her over-the-top scripts. “She doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Eva said of the eccentric writer.

“Phyllis is loud. Very loud. She always pops up at random times. She thinks she runs the show,” she added.

Gaylin Davey, a junior, will play Violet Imbry.

“She’s a little bit of a ditz, but she tries,” Gaylin said, adding that her character, Violet, is new to the acting world, but she does her best.

“It’s chaotic,” Gaylin laughed, adding that the characters have trouble with their own lines so it gets a little bit confusing. “It’s a lot of fun. We get to play two characters at once. We play our actor, and then our actor is playing an actor.”

Zoey Richardson, the only freshman in the show, is playing Polly Benish, a sassy actress who thinks she’s the best and deserves the starring role.

“She thinks she’s the star,” Zoey said.

Dylan Kruel, a senior, will act as Sal Watson.

“My character is sarcastic and funny. He just knows how to push people’s buttons. You can always feel his presence, that’s his character,” said Dylan, who first began acting in the fifth grade. He’s performed in every play at the school since his first musical, “Funny Girl.”

The cast of 10 students has been rehearsing since September 15 and unlike the characters they play, Yanni said they have their lines down.

“We’ll be perfect by opening night,” he said.

“Play On!” kicks off Thursday, November 21, at 7 p.m. at the Pierson Middle-High School auditorium. Shows will continue Friday, November 22, at 7 p.m., Saturday, November 23, at 2 p.m. (free for seniors over 55,) and Saturday night at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.