This may be their foray into delivering drama in the virtual realm, but the Mercer Island High School actors are making a crucial connection with each other and are set to replicate that with online viewers come Dec. 3.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MIHS Drama Department will be streaming its production of “The Outsiders,” based on S.E. Hinton’s classic novel and coming-of-age story of Ponyboy Curtis in the mid-1960s. Eight performances from two casts — The Socs and The Greasers — will be set in 2020 and feature a Snapchat scene and much more.
In her 10th year at MIHS, drama teacher and director Daniela Melgar said it’s been a test of patience, creativity and flexibility to get the play rolling, and her 25 actors have displayed enthusiasm when faced with this new acting scenario.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but I have to say that it brings me such joy when I’m working with them and I get to see them doing their work, even if it’s just from the waist up,” said Melgar, adding that, “They’re still doing such lovely work and tugging at the heartstrings.”
“The Outsiders” features seniors, juniors and sophomores from Melgar’s advanced drama class and they’ve grown into a tight-knit family, she said.
The entire process began with Zoom auditions, during which the actors read monologues, and then Melgar paired students together to read scenes. With the actors’ roles set, they began filming their scenes on Zoom with different backgrounds to signify the various locations. When the recordings are complete, they’ll piece all the clips together and will include slides to show a shift in time, scene and location. Then, it’s showtime.
Kendall Baebler, a senior who plays Dallas in the Socs cast, said it’s been an interesting process in bringing “The Outsiders” to life. It feels different, but it’s nice to see it all coming to fruition, she added.
“We’ve all been doing a lot of character work and a lot of work to make this show as good as possible, even though it’s not gonna be in person and we’re not gonna have a lot of blocking and movements that we would usually have,” she said. “From what I’ve seen from the scenes that we have filmed so far, there’s a lot of good work that’s happening and all the emotions are really coming through.”
Another senior Jamisen Dowdy, who plays Dallas in the Greasers cast, is feeling good about his performance and is excited to get the play underway.
“I think the whole thing has just been kind of surreal, ‘cause I’m in my home environment. I’m not really used to doing this type of stuff at my desk or in my living room,” he said.
While reading “The Outsiders” for the first time recently, senior London Brunelle was drawn to the character of Johnny, who she’ll play in the Socs cast.
“And right away, I said, ‘Ooh, I would really like to play Johnny, because I think that’s really interesting,’” she said. “And I knew that if I were to be playing Johnny, I would be playing Johnny as a female, which is not how Johnny was originally written. And then when I found out we were setting it in 2020, that just added so many layers that we could all play with as a cast.”
Brunelle said that although it’s been challenging to do their job in a new way, she’s glad to have the entire team working hard together on this play.
The main character of Ponyboy will be in the hands of junior Lucas Vorkoper (Greasers) and sophomore Milo Mechem-Miller (Socs).
While rehearsing at home, Vorkoper’s sister ran lines with him a couple of times to help him now, but perhaps also to prepare for her own drama experience later in high school.
“I really like digging into Ponyboy just because he’s very observant and that’s kind of something I try to be more like, and understand how things connect in the world,” he said.
Mechem-Miller also relates to Ponyboy’s character and is moved by the emotional church scene when Ponyboy and Johnny discuss Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Like many of the actors, Mechem-Miller read “The Outsiders” in seventh grade, and the book still resonates with them to this day.
“It’s been really cool being able to take that first excitement and joy and thoughts that I got from that poem and that scene when I was younger and be able to put them into the theater in an actual show,” Mechem-Miller said.
“The Outsiders” will stream on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. (Socs); Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. (Greasers); Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. (Greasers); Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. (Socs); Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. (Greasers); Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. (Socs); Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. (Socs); and Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. (Greasers).
To purchase tickets, go to: http://mihs.booktix.com/. Ticket sales will be on a donation basis only, and proceeds will go to the play’s sponsor, the Mercer Island School District Drama Boosters.
The full cast is (Greasers and Socs casts, respectively):
Ponyboy — Lucas Vorkoper and Milo Mechem-Miller
Johnny — Kyra McPherson and London Brunelle
Bob — Max Fischel
Randy — Madison Laurie and Abigail Weiss
Dallas — Jamisen Dowdy and Kendall Baebler
Two-Bit — Artemis Wiegand and Geoffrey Goffman
Darry — Max Cathey-Roberts and Kylie Drake
Sodapop — Evan Skirgaudas and Sophia Dondisch
Sandy/ Mrs. O’Briant — Sofia Yarza and Kate Gormley
Cherry — Catherine Grady and Caroline Thompson
Marcia — Kate Petersen and Molly Atkinson
Ms. Syme/ Jerry/Nurse/Soc — Amelie Van Dooren and Brielle Gradek
Doctor/ Paula/Soc — Maple O’Callaghan and Sadie Jensen
On the production team side, director is Daniela Melgar; stage manager is Emily Elbaum; film editors are Kylie Drake, London Brunelle, Geoffrey Goffman and Kyra McPherson; and poster designer is Milo Mechem-Miller.