The show must go on

Plain Playwright Festival took to the stage with an unanticipated twist


Junior cast member and student director JD Danner rehearses a monologue

     Actors rush around in a flurry of neon orange shirts and anxiety, running lines with fellow castmates and securing microphones. Excitement buzzes in the air as the doors to the theater open. As the sound of the audience seeps through the thick velvet curtains, cast members prepare themselves to perform in the Plain Playwright Festival.      

    “I wanted to have some sort of performance opportunity that could showcase students who are writers,” theater arts director Amy Sima-Dirham said. “And a way to have our program interact with students across the district.”

     Students from any school within Plain Local can submit a poem, monologue, scene or story to be considered for the show. This year’s show was on April 20, marking the fifth year of the production. 

     “This year we had the most entries ever,” Dirham said. “We had over 50 entries and we usually take about 25 to 30, so that was really exciting.”

     This year’s production featured 32 individual pieces with a cast of just 16 students, along with six student directors. A couple students even doubled as directors and actors. Each cast member had a minimum of two scenes to perform in, some taking on as many as four or five. 

     With such a small cast, teamwork was crucial. Whether it be moving set pieces on stage or giving an anxious actor a pep talk, cast members have to help each other out on and off the stage. 

     “Participating in the show made me feel somewhat important,” freshman cast member Ace Lisk said. “Everyone was depending on me for certain things, and if I didn’t do it then the show would go downhill.” 

     Only three seniors were originally cast, meaning it was up to underclassmen like Lisk to rise to the occasion. There might have been a difference in age, but there was a sense of comradery among all of the actors. 

     “It’s been amazing,” Lisk said. “The upperclassmen have improved my comfortability with performing in front of others.” 

     Actors are taught to be ready for anything, and to improvise if something goes wrong during a performance. The show was scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m., but as it grew closer to show time, a major problem arose. One of the cast members, freshman Lilyana Hoza, became ill backstage. 

     Cast and crew sprung into action to help in any way they could, but there was clearly no way she could perform. To make it even more complicated, one of Hoza’s scenes was supposed to be a monologue in French.

      “I was originally only supposed to direct for the festival,” senior student director Dru Smith said. “But when a last minute emergency occurred and no one else knew how to speak French for a role, I had no choice but to step in and read a poem on stage.”

     Smith, who has spent the past four years learning the language and is in IB French, was Hoza’s director for the piece. Hoza had no prior experience with foreign languages, but worked with Smith for weeks in preparation for the performance. It turned out that none of the other actors could read or speak French, so when Hoza fell ill, Smith stepped in. 

     “I was super nervous about it because I didn’t expect to even have to be on stage for anything other than the bows,” Smith said. “But I got through it. By the time I got off stage I was shaking like a leaf.”

     Hoza’s other scenes were taken care of with ease, but the chaos was not over yet. Another actor felt ill just before their scene started, causing a frenzied search for somebody to cover the role. 

     “We had some interesting things happen this year,” Dirham said. “We had people get sick. Directors and other actors had to go on stage, sometimes with scripts.” 

     In the midst of it all, however, there had been no time to notify Dirham of the situation. She spent the show in the light and sound booth, which is on the opposite side of the Abbey-Foltz Theater. 

     “At the time I knew something was happening because I was seeing different people in different roles,” Dirham said. 

     Overall the rest of the performance went off without a hitch and more than 150 tickets were sold. In the end, the show must go on.