Friday, December 23, 2011
SENIOR PLAY 2011: HONOR AMONG THIEVES
The Hyland Class of 2012 put on a great show on 11/11/11. Dad and I wrote “Honor Among Thieves” specifically for the seniors.
Last April, while the seniors of 2011 were on the Washington D.C. field trip, Briana Akins, Hannah Morton, Ben Oehlert, Caleb Oehlert, Aimee Vance and myself went to Barnes and Noble, got some coffee, and started brainstorming.
Brainstorming included finding interesting titles, random phrases from books and doing a little eavesdropping. We then went back to the school and wrote all the various bits and pieces on the whiteboard, looking for anything that captured our interest. By the end of our meeting, we decided the play would be about a bunch of thieves all competing to steal the same thing. There was some discussion about each thief having their own particular style, but beyond that, the story was up in the air.
During the summer, Dad and I mulled the idea over and around August started trying to come up with a more specific approach. Just before we started actually writing, we were pleased to find out Britanny Wynne would be joining the cast and we figured out how to add an additional thief.
Dad and I each wrote a rough draft and then combined our ideas into a script to be used for a read-through. On September 29th, the actors read the first draft. They were essentially the first “audience” and they really liked the story.
Over the next week, Dad and I rewrote the script, keeping in mind their suggestions. One suggestion in particular that affected the story in a big way was the request for a little romance. In the original version, there was only a hint of interest between Shirley and Elliot. In the final version, it was much more obvious and much more cheesy.
When we first started writing, we had no idea how the story was going to end. The fact that Elliot was actually Gimbley Mundershug happened almost by accident. As we drew closer to the end, the idea just sort of showed up.
Dad named Dolly McGloan (played by Caleb) after his P.E. teacher. Nina got her name because it was one letter away from “ninja,” which was basically her style of thievery.
During the weeks of rehearsals, Larry Grampp, as always, showed up to help us out a great deal. One of the first important pieces we needed was a real window that could open and close. He brought that to us and built a frame for us. He also attached a permanent ladder backstage.
Another challenge about this play had to do with Nina’s entrance. We wanted her to come down a rope, but as we began to fully ponder the idea, we realized it wouldn’t be as simple (or as safe) as it had first sounded. Naturally, we turned to Scott Anderson.
Scott has been a part of helping with Hyland plays ever since Green Eggs and Hamlet clear back in 1997. He also happens to be an avid mountain climber. He kept Robert West alive, dangling for a whole scene in Strange Mango Thing, so we figured he could also get Hannah safely down a rope. Scott showed up on a Saturday and spent a great deal of time building a frame to support a rope and then rigging up a system that allowed for a controlled descent.
There was another complication in connection with this stunt. Right after Hannah set foot on the stage, she was supposed to “shoot” Ben with a dart from a blowgun. The blowgun was a metal pipe and we were concerned that it might difficult for her to come down the rope with it. To solve the problem, we simply put the metal pipe on the floor (hidden). When she knelt down to get loose of the rope, she picked it up as if she had been carrying it the whole time.
A few years ago, someone mentioned in passing that it would be fun to have someone come up out of the stage, by building a floor over one of the side stairways. So we used some of the work Clark Woodfin built to seal off one of the stairways. This allowed Brittany to appear to come up out of the ventilation system. The idea was to have each thief have their own way of entering as well as having their own style in general.
Much of the script ended up requiring the actors to ad-lib quite a bit. During the parts in which they approached the diamond, it was important they maintain an intensity, despite several stretches of silence. They improvised several lines in order to make the play work. I also warned them that since there were so many precarious elements in the play, to be ready to “fix” the moment and to not break character. On the night of the performance, when one of the mirrors fell, they proved themselves capable of holding the play together. No one broke character and it resulted in a Aimee’s famous line—“The vase dropped it. I didn’t drop it.” By the way, this got more laughs than any of the lines in the actual script.
Mark Phillips let us use some of his own music (to be released soon on a DVD) for the credits and curtain call. It’s called “Not Out Yet” and it seemed to fit the whole tone of the story.
The seniors had one shot at performing the script and they put their all into it. They often spent their lunches running lines. On the Saturday before the final week, we rehearsed from nine in the morning to almost nine that night.
This turned out to be the longest of the senior plays. It also turned out to draw the largest crowd we’ve ever had for a senior play. The numbers seemed close to what we usually have for the “big” play in the Spring.
All in all, the seniors did a great job. They worked hard and it paid off.