Next week the Knights Theater Company at Sandwich High School will be performing the musical “Fame,” which, the young actors say, is a story with plenty of themes they and the audience can relate to.
The stage play is an adaptation of the 1980 film of the same name.
The story is about a talented and diverse group of teenagers who are all vying for a spot in the High School of Performing Arts—an exclusive school in New York City that students have to audition to be accepted into. Not all of the characters succeed in getting into the school, and those who do find that they are still faced with challenges they must overcome as artists and as teenagers.
For a show about teenage artists, many of the technical aspects of the production have been entrusted to students. The set, sounds, and lighting setup have been largely designed and implemented by the students with guidance from husband-and-wife directorial team Kevin and Melinda Lasit.
Lauren Serdy, an 11th grade student who helped create the artwork on the set, said students were given a lot of freedom when it came to the designs. The set itself is relatively minimal and the art created by Lauren and her peers adds pops of color and period-appropriate flair.
“It had to be very colorful, very ‘80s,” she said of the designs. “We got to flex our artistic muscle and create a very art-centric design versus a building-centric one.”
The production is also very technical when it comes to lighting and sound cues for the tech crew. Maxfield Capron, 10th grade, is the sound engineer for the show. He said that the show is cue-driven, which means he had to become extremely familiar with the script so he does not miss those cues. While all shows require a certain amount of focus from the tech crew, he said that this has required him to make sure that his eyes and ears are on the action on the stage at all times.
Junior Ethan Halas, the show’s lighting engineer, said the lighting cues are similarly complex. The show demands that the work he does with the lights be done crisply and deliberately, especially in the show’s opening scene. Ethan designed the lighting for the show in collaboration with Mr. Lasit.
“It’s my dream to design lighting for a show,” Ethan said.
Ethan said he is currently working on custom-made projections that will be used in the production, making the projections unique from any other performance of “Fame.” He said that the audience will have to wait and see when it comes to what the art crew has in store when it comes to those projections.
The actors said that even though the show is about performing-arts students, most audience members will find their stories to be easy to relate to.
McKenna Lasit, a senior, plays Coco—a triple-threat student studying dance, drama and singing. Her character has to navigate school while also handling heartbreak.
“She’s tough around the edges, but is just trying to figure out where she fits in,” she said. “It’s a super cool responsibility to have the audience be able to relate to you.”
For senior Ashtyn Smart, playing drama student Doris initially seemed daunting because she did not consider herself to be in any way like her character. Doris is initially shy and under the thumb of her mother and Ashtyn was afraid that she would come off as awkward in the role. However, she found that she related to the character more than she had anticipated.
In addition to playing Doris, Ashtyn and her twin sister Brett (who plays dance student Lydia), are also the dance captains for the production. Ashtyn said she enjoyed the opportunity to balance both acting and choreography this time around. Brett said this is their third show as dance captains for the theater company and that she and her sister work well as a team.
“Choreography and teaching is something that we love to do,” she said. “We’re not afraid to give each other criticism and we collaborate well together.”
For some of the actors, they found that their roles pitted them against their real-life friends on stage—a dynamic shift that they have found to be a fun change.
Senior Daniella Gil Veras plays English teacher Mrs. Sherwood, who finds herself at odds with dance student Leroy, played by senior Jacob Swenson.
“I’ve been eyeing this role for a while,” Daniella said. “I’ve always felt like she would be a cool character to see progress.”
Off stage, Daniella and Jacob are close friends. Daniella said that her character starts off being a bit “snappy” with Jacob’s and that she is having a lot of fun getting to yell at Jacob. She said that Mrs. Sherwood is her first lead role and that she has been learning about herself as an actor through this process.
Jacob said he was shocked to be cast as Leroy—a boy who is unable to read, but is a gifted dancer. Jacob has never considered himself to be a strong dancer, but rather someone who dances for fun.
“I’ve always loved to bust it down on the dance floor,” he said.
As a character, Leroy is someone who struggles with academics and does not get on well with his teachers. This is a far cry from who Jacob is in real life.
“In real life I try to support people in Leroy’s position,” he said. “This role has reinvigorated my desire to continue to support people in his position.”
Junior Grace Pimentel plays prospective student Shirley. Unfortunately, Shirley does not get accepted into the school after her audition, a situation that Grace said many people will find they can relate to.
“I feel like a lot of people can relate to rejection,” she said, noting that feeling that disappointment is actually an important part of personal development. “It helps you learn how to get better.”
Owen McDevitt, a sophomore, plays music student Bruno. He said that this is his first time being cast in a lead role for Knights Theater, which he is very excited about.
He said that his character has a tendency to push others away and does not realize how amazing his music actually is. Playing the part has given him the opportunity to evaluate his own personality from a different perspective which in turn has helped to enhance his performance on stage.
As drama student Montgomery, junior Christopher Esdale said he gets to incorporate his real-life guitar talent into his performance. He said that there are not many roles for stage actors where someone would have that chance, save for aspiring rock star Roger from the musical “RENT.” Christopher said he has been playing guitar for nearly nine years and is glad to have the chance to play on stage for this production.
Sophomore Caleb Levesque said that when he heard Knight Theater would be doing “Fame,” he initially did not know who he should audition for. After watching the movie, he realized that the role that would suit him best would be Ralph, a drama student who finds success as a comedian.
“He’s so flamboyant and I have a lot of energy,” Caleb said.
Caleb said he enjoys watching the character mature throughout the production.
Freshman Luke MacDonald plays Bruno’s cousin, Mario, an acting student. While he said that there is not much to say about his character, he said that the show itself has an important message.
“The themes of the show are rejection and frustration—all things that everyone can relate to as human beings,” he said, saying that the message especially holds true for those pursuing the performing arts. “Even though you don’t get the role you wanted, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad at your craft—it just means that the part wasn’t right for you.”
“Fame” opens at the high school next week with performances on Friday, November 15, Saturday, November 16, Friday, November 22, and Friday, November 23 at 7 PM. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and will be sold at the door.