by Amy Doeun
The North Branch Area High School theater department has been steadily growing.
“For the past few years, the spring play has evolved and grown into what it is today,” director Laura Michels said. “I was asked by the Community Education department to come on this year as a mentor and teacher to the cast and crew, not only teaching the student directors how to direct a show in a professional fashion, but also teaching and mentoring the cast, helping them become better actors, developing their characters and teaching them acting etiquette.”
Even the stage crew was taught how to conduct themselves in a professional way.
Jalen McDonough and Paul Willard were this year’s student directors. According to Michels, the student directors had to go through an application and interview process to get the job. They were responsible for casting the show, setting the rehearsal calendar, running rehearsals and a myriad of other parts integral to the play.
For the past four years, McDonough and Willard have both been involved in the theater program at North Branch Area High School. As seniors prepare to say goodbye to the program, they noted there was no greater way to bid adieu than to be directors of the spring play.
This year’s play, “You Can’t Take It With You,” was performed at the high school May 12 and 13. The play was first performed in 1936 — just 23 years after personal income tax began and at a time when there were only 48 states. According to a statement from the theater department, the play “goes deeper than many comedies of its time and celebrates nonconformity.”
The play follows a very eclectic family. They pursue their passions, whether it is writing plays, making fireworks, ballet, printing or xylophone playing. This leads to problems when daughter Alice falls in love with her boss’ son — Tony Kirby. He proposes, but she is hesitant to accept because she is sure their families wouldn’t mesh. Tony encourages her and suggests a dinner party for the families to meet.
Alice painstakingly plans it and directs her family to behave normally. But Tony and his parents show up on the wrong night. There is an aspiring actress passed out drunk on the sofa. Mother Penny is working on a painting of Mr. DePinna as a discus thrower complete with toga. Mr. Kolenkhov is giving another daughter, Essie, a ballet lesson and the home is bustling. Into this environment walk Mr. And Mrs. Kirby, dressed for a fancy dinner party. But Grandpa saves the day with his hard-learned lesson.
Student directors McDonough and Willard said they would like to continue the lessons and noted they have tried to embed in their rehearsals the lessons that can be learned from this show: living life to the fullest by doing what makes you happy.