By CHELSEA GUO
The 2016 UHS Fall Play is Don’t Drink the Water, produced by the UHS Theatre Arts Program and will be showing every night from Wednesday, November 16 to Saturday, November 19 at 7 PM in the Big Theatre.
Don’t Drink the Water takes place in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, where the Hollander family finds themselves stuck in the American Embassy after being mistaken as spies and fleeing from the Communist police. The story involves slapstick comedy, disguises, dramatic adventures and romance, reflecting the typical Roman comedy format.
“This year’s play is a comedy that is truly entertaining for all students,” stage manager Maxwell Han (Sr.) said. “[The] humor is very down to earth and easy to understand, perfect for everyone who just simply wants to have a laugh without spending too much effort decoding the lines.”
The characters of the play themselves are relatable and funny, as their actors bring their personalities to life.
“My character, Axel Magee, is the son of a very famous foreign diplomat and chief assistant to her while she runs an American embassy. He is a bumbling but lovable idiot, an Ivy league graduate but has very little street smarts,” actor Isaac Kopstein (Jr.) said. “The exchanges on stage are really hilarious, and…I think we’ve succeeded in making the whole production feel alive.”
Corinne Alsop (Sr.) plays another lead role of mother Marion Hollander, a quirky housewife.
“I love playing comedic characters, and playing a mom is new for me. I’m so lucky that I get to go onstage and make jokes and talk funny for an hour and a half every night,” Alsop said.
Behind the scenes, the Technical Crew has dedicated countless hours to recreating the 1960s style of clothing, buildings and props. One unique aspect of Don’t Drink the Water is that it was produced almost entirely by students since the Technical Director was less available this year after the opening of Portola High School.
“We’ve put a lot of work into making this a successful period piece. Everything is set in 1967, so we’ve tried to be meticulous with the details, from the typewriters and dial-up phones to the outfits worn by the characters,” Kopstein said.
“Without the vast experience of a professional, many of us are just learning through mistakes,” Han added. “To step in as a student technical director and ensure [that] projects take place has been a challenging task for me. Completely drafted and designed by students, the set has certainly made everyone involved proud and happy.”
Another challenge presented to the Crew was a theft in construction tools. The process of building the set was inevitably delayed, and $4,000 in funds were dedicated to buying new construction equipment.
“Every day we discover another missing resource, which has been a fiscal challenge and made meeting deadlines very tricky,” director Ms. Ranae Bettger (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) said. “The cast and crew have joined together to produce a stellar product and audiences will never see evidence of these hurdles in our end product.”
Cast and Crew have dedicated about ten weeks total to perfecting every aspect of the play, with about five of those weeks spent in nightly rehearsals. Actors rehearse their dialogues with comedic timing and mold their characters to appeal to the audience emotionally, while crew members learn to seamlessly run through every lighting change, sound effect and prop to fully immerse the viewers in the story.
“The hardest part of rehearsing has been how long the work days are. Some Saturday rehearsals have even lasted thirteen hours, but my favorite part has been spending time with all the cast and crew,” Emi Nishida (Fr.) said, who is a new member in the Build & House Crew. “When you spend so much time together working as a team to put on the best show possible, you really become like a family.”
This year’s graduating class of seniors has several prominent members of UHS Theatre, many of whom credit theatre as a defining factor that has changed their lives.
“Theatre has had a profound impact on me. It’s given me agency over my voice and body. It connects me to the great oral tradition and allows me to lend my voice to the chorus of storytellers that have existed throughout history. For me, I hope that it won’t just be my way of making a living, but my way of making a life,” Alsop said.
“I hope that the students involved in this show learn the lifelong lessons theatre provides. So much of what we do is relevant to the world at large. Students learn about the context and themes of the show, but more lasting lessons are connecting with others, what it means to love, how much to give when following your passion, how to balance work and play [and more],” Bettger said. “I hope that students take these aptitudes into all future endeavors and are able to translate their experiences to their broader life experience.”
The total production cost was $18,000. In order to break even, $4,000 or 1,200 tickets need to be sold. Every night of the show, audience members can bring cash to support UHS Theatre Arts in A Minute To Give. Each donation is a contribution to fundraising efforts and helps cover the cost of tools so future theatre productions can maintain the great quality that students have loved through the years.
Tickets are still available online at www.seatyourself.biz/iusd for $10 House seating with ASB, $13 House seating without ASB and $20 Orchestra seating.