For years, Waupaca High School English teachers Monica Reeves and Patrick Phair have talked about plays which are not only suitable and interesting for high school students but also have a lot of characters.
The play being presented this year by the high school’s Drama Department fits their criteria – and it is an original play written by Phair.
“Photo Shop” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, and also at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3, in the high school’s Performing Arts Center.
“There are a lot of great plays, but maybe only six or seven characters. To have a play where you can incorporate at least 20 characters at a minimum is difficult to find,” said Reeves, who is directing the play.
Phair said, “As time goes by, you will see fewer and fewer characters. It is cheaper when you don’t have to pay as many (actors).”
In addition, audiences have become comfortable with people doing more than one role in a play.
“I’ve directed a lot of plays with large casts,” Reeves said. “Between 20 and 25 I think is ideal for a high school cast, all with speaking lines, even if it’s a few lines. All of his characters have at least a few lines, so they all have their moment to shine.”
As he was writing the play, Phair worked to include more characters in it.
He knew if there was interest in presenting it at the high school level, it was important to have a play with a significant number of roles.
“We are a teaching institute,” Phair said.
Through the years, Phair has done a lot of dialogue writing, and he always writes the skit for the retiring teachers.
He began working on “Photo Shop” about two years ago.
The students in Reeves’ drama class read it last year and were interested.
“The kids are the ones who sell me on the plays. I always have them read it first,” she said.
Phair said, “They gave me good feedback. Over the summer, I revised it – not the storyline but the presentation.”
The decision was made to present it this year.
“We tweaked it just a little during rehearsals. He was open to changes,” Reeves said.
The story is set in a Jewish photo shop in Poland in 1939.
“The students seem to enjoy anything having to do with World War II,” she said.
Phair said it is a hot topic, particularly as more veterans who served in that war die.
“It’s a finite number of years before everyone who was a victim, participant, soldier will no longer be here,” he said.
Phair’s idea for the play came from a short story he read about 15 years ago.
The story was about a teenage boy who worked in a photo shop in Poland.
The Polish Resistance went to the photo shop, Phair explained, and asked if they could be given doubles of those who were photographed to use in their efforts against the Nazis.
“It always stuck with me. I found it interesting,” he said. “It shows in a situation such as a war how an average person, who thinks he has no connection to a warlike activity, how common, ordinary people become heroic characters, put themselves at risk. It was a dangerous sort of task, and they were young people.”
When Phair wrote the play, he wanted the main characters to be young people, because he thought it would speak more to the students.
The cast includes Katie Schaefer, Sarah Bauer, Cole Pankratz, Kelsie Wolfgram, Isaac Baumgart, Luke Harger, Christie Shaw, Nick Jungers, Sarah Pellerino, Joey Vasquez, Greg Bloomberg, Janye Barber, Ryan Weise, Courtney Miller, Ellen Ryder, Jeff Servey, Sidney DaWalk, Alexandra Lund, Brianna Quesada, Rachel Klein, Maggie Walkoe, Eric Cummings, Erinn Manteufel, Patrick Bauer, Logan Ader and Jackson Newell.
In addition, community member Romie Jungers will play an older version of one of the characters.
His grandson Nick is a member of the cast.
Reeves said she has used teachers and community members in the past for cameos.
Making up the stage crew are Kately Vicencio, Rebekah Wright, Hailey Johnson, Autumn Schultz, Jackson Newell and Kirsten Dahlk.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.
General admission tickets may be purchased at the high school office one week prior to show time or at the door one hour prior to each show.
Reeves said the casting took place before the Christmas break.
Rehearsals began when the students returned to school after the holidays.
Phair helped Reeves with the casting and has not been part of the rehearsals.
“Monica’s the director. I’m just the writer,” he said.
Phair is looking forward to seeing how his characters are interpreted by those portraying them.
Reeves is stressing to the students the importance of memorizing and respecting Phair’s words.
“I decided to not go with the accents for consistency and the believability of the characters. It’s best to focus on the storyline than on the accent,” she said. “The main purpose of any show is to tell the story.”
The fact it is an original play means there are no copyright issues.
Therefore, they were able to create their own posters for publicity. They will also be filming it.
Phair has submitted the play in the the University of Wisconsin-Madison Playwright Contest.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Reeves said if the play were to ever be published, they would be listed as the first producers of the play, and the students would be listed as the original cast.
“It’s been a collaborative effort. The kids are enjoying it. It’s been very rewarding. We’re taking a local voice and putting it on stage,” she said.