The drama department at Grady is gearing up for its annual fall and spring productions. The plays scheduled for the Grady stage this year range and will demonstrate everything from dramas to musicals, from boisterous dance numbers to poignant, tear-jerking scenes. The rehearsal schedule to put on these performances is relentless, requiring actors and techies to stay after school every day during the weeks before each performance. This fall, the Theater Department will be busier than usual, as they rehearse three major productions.
“This is one show more than we normally do,” senior Eliza Renner said. Renner is playing the lead roles in two of the performances, Dogface and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Although Thoroughly Modern Millie won’t be performed until January, the majority of rehearsals will take place this semester. Lee Pope, the director of Millie, is producing the show out of the advanced musical theater class.
Normally, the production that comes out of this class is also the one-act competition piece, but this year Dogface, produced by drama teacher Jake Dreiling, will be going to competition. This competition includes dozens of high school one-act plays performed at the district and state levels.
“Dogface will be the first time we’ve ever brought a straight drama [to competition],” senior Preston Choi said. Choi is acting in Dogface, working as a stage manager for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and helping with set design for The Winter’s Tale.
Dogface is about a young woman and how she navigates her new life with a severe physical deformity. Conversely, Thoroughly Modern Millie is a splashy comedy with lots of singing, laughing and, of course, dance.
“It is typical 1920s,” director Lee Pope said. “You have the over-the-top, silent film actor types … with a stereotypical Broadway female lead.”
The Winter’s Tale, a play by William Shakespeare, combines both tragedy and romance into a central idea of offense and redemption. Director Lisa Willoughby thinks her production will provide a challenge for her actors.
“I think that students deserve a chance to wrestle with the language that Shakespeare uses,” Willoughby said.
These three plays are not the only productions the drama department has in store for this school year. They will also produce a spring musical, as well as a collection of coffeehouses, three-day plays and the senior one-acts.
“The senior one-acts will be really fun to watch,” Choi said. “It allows the seniors to put on their own small shows and show their personalities through that.”
In these fall productions, dance lovers can see expressive tap numbers, literature seekers can revel in the words of Shakespeare, and those who want a good bit of drama can find it in Dogface.
“[The student body] will get to see a lot of very challenging and entertaining theater,” Willoughby said.
Of course, the production on everyone’s mind for next semester is the one and only Rent, the musical drama about eight young artists living in New York during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Dreiling will be directing this performance. He believes Rent is timely but also historical because the homosexuality themes in the play have become less controversial.
“It’s definitely a show I’ve wanted to do for a long time and could never do,” Dreiling said. “But it’s time.”
“Competition will be fierce,” said Alexis Lopez, the freshman understudy for Dogface. “Everybody seems to be such amazing singers.”
Students are already talking about auditions for Rent. In fact, actors are already staking their claims on knowing the most about Rent.
“I’ve been listening to the music of Rent since I bought the movie soundtrack at a yard sale in sixth grade,” Renner said, “but I was a little shocked to find out we were putting on such an ambitious play.”
Though students are already enthusiastic about next semester’s drama opportunities, drama teachers have been more low-key about the upcoming spring musical so far, talking about the program itself in more general terms.
“I’m always excited by the growth of the program,” Willoughby said.
Dreiling echoed this remark.
“Seeing what the new ninth-graders bring to the table, the newness, is what I like,” Dreiling said.
Either way, Pope believes the Drama Club will be putting on plays that will cater to the whole student body.
“There’s a little bit of everything for everybody,” he said.