BHS theater students show comedy chops in ‘Noises Off’

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 30, 2015

 From left, Berkley High School theater students Josiah Cedo, Alex Morrison, Chloe Oliva and Will Shulak practice their parts.

From left, Berkley High School theater students Josiah Cedo, Alex Morrison, Chloe Oliva and Will Shulak practice their parts.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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BERKLEY — In Berkley School District Drama Coordinator John Hopkins’ fourth year in the district, the drama students will be tackling possibly their biggest production yet when they present “Noises Off” Dec. 3-5.

The production, a three-act play-within-a-play written by Michael Frayn, takes the audience through the troubles during dress rehearsal, gives them a peek backstage during a live performance, and then finally shows how all the problems present themselves during the closing performance.

“This is said to be the funniest play ever written, and (a professional production) will be opening this December on Broadway,” Hopkins said. “You learn about actors dating actresses, jealousy, fears and all that. In the closing act, you barely recognize the show anymore because all the actors are spent and crazy, and it really is hilarious, and each act is funnier than the last.”

One of the benefits of the production, Hopkins said, is there are only nine characters, so the more seasoned students have a chance to show off their talents while the younger students have a chance to learn behind the upperclassmen.

“There is a ton of talent in the senior class this year who have been already getting national awards for their abilities, but we also have had a big surge of talent coming into the high school with the freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “So each role has an understudy, and it is perfect because the older kids have the tools for such a challenging show, and the the younger kids can follow in their footsteps and learn.”

Senior Alex Morrison plays actor Garry Lejeune, who is the lead actor in the play-within-a-play. Morrison has been part of the theater program for all four years at BHS.

Getting a chance to do a farce as his final fall play, as well as something so challenging, has been rewarding, Morrison said.

“The play itself is something I have never done before and is the most challenging thing we have done, and we are all aware of that,” Morrison said. “It’s about all the backstage shenanigans that come with doing a production, and the show gets more hectic. It is the funniest play I have been a part of, and we can’t even do a rehearsal part without cracking up laughing, which I think is so cool.”

The production’s set is impressive. The set was completed in four pieces and rotates to show the stage of the play-within-a-play, as well as the backstage happenings.

Hopkins said it is the biggest set the program has made. It has eight doors, a grand staircase and a picture window. With the stage being an integral part of the production, Morrison said it added that much more to the difficulty of the show.

“The design is really important for this show specifically, as everything is movement-based, and we are coming in and going out doors really quickly,” he said. “My character specifically falls down a flight of stairs, so that was an important part. It is one of the biggest sets we have built so far, and we are all really proud of it.”

With this being Morrison’s and the rest of the seniors’ final fall production, Morrison said the program has come a long way in four years, which correlates with all four years that Hopkins has been in the district. 

When he came in, Hopkins said, the program had about 55 kids; this year, they have almost doubled the number of students in the program, with 60 students alone working on the fall production. 

“I am certainly blown away with pride, because (the seniors) seemed like such little kids then, with so much potential, and now they have had the time to see that potential through, and it is amazing to me,” Hopkins said. “They are not only fantastic performers and actors and crew members, but fantastic humans, and the Drama Club has taken a step back to really look out for each other.”

“Noises Off” will be performed at 7 p.m. Dec. 3-5 at the Berkley High School auditorium, 2325 Catalpa Drive. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

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