‘Outsiders’ production at Henry Ford II High fights for hope amid inequality

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 25, 2019

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Theatergoers who plan to attend Henry Ford II High School’s production of “The Outsiders” should get ready for a rumble onstage; namely, some choreographed fight scenes.

“All in all, they’re fairly impactful and powerful,” said Ford senior Caleb Robinson. “And there’s a lot going on onstage, so the audience will be entertained.”

Henry Ford II High School’s theater students will present “The Outsiders” Nov. 7-9. The play is based on the 1967 S.E. Hinton book, which many Utica Community Schools eighth graders read in class.

Ford theater director Kirstin Carolin said the plot of  “The Outsiders” highlights social inequalities and segregation between the upper and lower socioeconomic classes. She said one “Outsiders” theme is maintaining hope, and another focuses on things that keep one young and pure.

“I think those things are still applicable today,” she said.

According to Carolin, the plot pits working-class Ponyboy and his “Greaser” gang friends against the rich kids in his neighborhood, the Socials or the “Socs.” But Ponyboy soon meets Cherry, a Social who bonds with him over poetry.

Carolin said the production is not a musical, and it has a stage cast of about 18 people, with many more students working backstage in props, building and lighting. It runs about an hour and 40 minutes, she said.

The actors have rehearsed with a fight choreographer to make the rumble scenes realistic but safe for the actors.

“Stage combat is dangerous,” Carolin said. “You have to have the physical and emotional intensity onstage, as if you were really fighting. But you have to do it without hurting anybody, but still make it look like you are. If it’s not well-practiced, well-trained, the potential for somebody to get hurt is really high.”

Ford senior Caleb Robinson plays the lead role of Ponyboy.

“The main purpose of my character is the whole ‘stay gold’ mentality: Find the light in the dark and keep hope throughout the play, even when it seems like there isn’t much,” he said. “I also feel as if my character tries to show this idea, that the world is just more than the social classes you’re put into.”

Another Ford senior, Jacob Yasso, plays the role of Bob, a Soc “bully to the Greasers.”

“We really show the divide between how sophisticated and cool that we think we are,” he said, “when in reality, life is tough all over.”

Meanwhile, Ford senior Toni Gjerkaj plays Randy, a sort of sidekick to Bob who helps instigate a fight with the Greasers. However, Gjerkaj described his role as a dynamic one.

“There’s a lot of self-discovery for him,” he said.

For Ford senior Theresa De Benedetti, who plays the role of Marcia and heads the play’s marketing and social media efforts, the production is a great way to experience a different era.

“I really love the ’60s,” she said. “Getting to explore the decade with costumes is really fun.”

The Henry Ford II theatre department will stage “The Outsiders” at Henry Ford II High School, 11911 Clinton River Road in Sterling Heights, at 7 p.m. Nov. 7-9, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 9.

Admission costs $12 for adults and $10 for students, though UCS eighth graders with a student ID may get tickets at the door for $5 each. Buy regular-price tickets ahead of time by visiting hfiitheatre.ludus.com. Tickets at the door, while available, will be sold starting an hour before showtime.

Find out more information about Henry Ford II High School by visiting ford.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1600.

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