Students to perform competitive one-act play with additional scenes they wrote

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published January 25, 2024

 Student director and costume designer Brandon Giliger and theater director Heather McCaig watch as students rehearse a scene in the one act play “Every U.S. Election Ever” at Novi High School Jan. 22.

Student director and costume designer Brandon Giliger and theater director Heather McCaig watch as students rehearse a scene in the one act play “Every U.S. Election Ever” at Novi High School Jan. 22.

Photo provided by Novi Community School District

 Students Milan Thurman and Arushi Singh rehearse a sword-fighting scene.

Students Milan Thurman and Arushi Singh rehearse a sword-fighting scene.

Photo provided by Novi Community School District

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NOVI — The Novi High School theater group will be showcasing its one-act play, “Every U.S. Election Ever,” a comedy about all the presidential elections in U.S. history, by playwright Ian McWethy, with public performances at the school at 7 p.m. Feb. 6-7, complete with updates written by the students to make the show current.

“This show very specifically is written in a way that the writer is very open about, ‘Hey, yes, this is my work, but please feel free to do whatever you want, because this is a totally subjective matter, and I’d love it if you can add on.’ So, actually multiple students in the cast and crew ended up writing material to be performed in the show about some of the more recent elections, because that is how the show design kind of works and how it’s open-ended,” said Milan Thurman, a senior. “I think it’s pretty awesome that we can have that perspective on it. … It was a real fun process to be a part of.”

Thurman, along with senior Arushi Singh, junior Neel Archis-Manish and a directing team, helped to write scenes from the 2016 and 2020 elections along with updates on the pending 2024 election.  According to Thurman, the 2016 scene is a spoof where reporters from around the world anticipate that Hilary Clinton is going to win and then suddenly Donald Trump ends up winning, and for the 2020 scene they cover Jan. 6 and the claims of election fraud.

“Then 2024, obviously, hasn’t happened yet, so we wanted to cover it with, like, an open-ended, the future is unknown kind of thing, but we talked about the (partisanship) of how we are today. We talked about Republican and Democrat partisans and how they kind of take things to the polarized extremes,” said Thurman.

“It’s not really about the politics. I mean we talk about the politics, but it’s not really about one side or the other. It’s just kind of taking the mick out of all of it and making it funny,” said Isabelle Shi (senior), who has several acting roles in the play. “Which makes it really fun to act out, because it’s ridiculous. … It’s blown up and it’s ridiculous and it makes this play just really fun.”

The play will also be performed as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association’s annual one-act play competition. The students will take the show to other locations with all aspects of the show judged against other high schools in the association. As the show is regulated by MIFA rules, the play is approximately 45 minutes long. It consists of about a dozen actors performing three or more roles each. As the play is a competition not just for the actors, but for the entire cast and crew, the set must be assembled in a mere 25 minutes just prior to the show and must be deconstructed in only 15 minutes after the show is presented. Every aspect of the show will be judged, from the acting to the lighting to the costumes to the set design.

The play will be performed at the district competition Jan. 26. The regional competition will be held Feb. 3 at Owosso High School. If Novi is successful at regionals, it will then compete in the state competition at Wayne State University Feb. 16-17.

The set is designed to look like a really massive version of the U.S. Capitol, Thurman said. He said it is covered with newspapers that feature presidential election headlines.

Freshman Allyson Bajorek, 14, will take on two roles in the production: Lyndon B. Johnson and Joe Biden. She said she decided to join theater after seeing the script for this show, as she thought it was really funny.

“It had (‘Saturday Night Live’) vibes, and I watch SNL a lot,” she said of the play. “I think the lines are real funny. I like how they poke fun of politics and how our government is structured and what’s kind of gone wrong and what’s gone right and then gone wrong again. It’s just a couple teenagers trying to make sense of politics and what’s going on in their country. I like how it’s kind of relatable and also just tying in, like, humor into the story.”

Bajorek said she loves the competitive aspect and believes it adds a little bit more excitement to the show.

“A lot of the show is us trying to make it a comedic and entertaining perspective on politics, because politics is a very serious thing that you talk about, especially with adults,” said sophomore Joanna Ambadipudi, 16. “I feel that this show takes a step back and makes it more relatable for kids to understand. In one of our scenes we are taking FDR into a superhero.”

Ambadipudi said that the play helps kids and adults to better understand politics, while getting a good laugh out of it.

The play also incorporates aspects of musical theater with a couple of musical numbers. Baritone singer David Lowry, 16, a junior, will perform, alongside another singer, a duet parody of the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” called “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Nixon.”

“Something I love about this play is that it has a level of absurdity that you can’t really do with anything else. For example, with the Grinch song, where else can you do a rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and like being rude to a president while singing with really weird choreography moves? There’s nowhere else you can do anything like that. And this show is just absurd, and it’s very over the top, and that’s my personality, and this is a great way to use this as an outlet to use my very over-the-top personality,” Lowry said.

However, he said this play is a lot more stressful than the musical he performed in last year because of the competition. He said he likes that he will be able to get feedback from people he doesn’t know or interact with a lot, which provides him with a fresh perspective.

Student technical directors Zan Malan, a junior, 16, and Maria Flores, a senior, 17, are responsible for makeup, publicity, programs, props, lights, sounds, sets and costumes. Malan said she has done all aspects of theater but chose to be a technical director for this show as a way to be a part of it all without feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. Flores said she wanted to help out in a variety of positions.

“I think it’s a little bit challenging with a one-act competition, because there’s a little bit more pressure, because you want it to be extra perfect because it’s a competition and you’re being judged, but you’re also getting individual feedback on some of the process, so for specific crews I think there’s a little bit more pressure to kind of do your best,” said Malan.

Flores said that the short amount of time between competitions is very challenging. She said that they have less than two weeks between the regional and state competitions.

Brandon Gilger, a junior, 17, is both the costume designer and student director for this production. He said he really likes that there are so many different parts to the show, as it offers a vast array of opportunities for theater students.

“My favorite aspect of the show is that even though it is comedy, we are still trying to stay true to the different time periods, and I love period pieces,” said Gilger.

Gilger said it is very challenging for him to do scene work for comedy scenes, as it is very different from working on a serious scene, because people have an idea of what funny is to them, but they have to think about what funny is to everybody. In order to get past that challenge, he said he spent a lot of time on it and tried to get many different points of view.

Flores describes the play as seriousness brought through comedy.

“It’s like the perfect amount of seriousness, chaos and comedy all together,” said Flores.

“I’m not a politically active person, but I feel that I’ve learned so much from the show even just watching it. So it’s got the learning aspect, but it’s also got the fun, so it’s got the best of both worlds,” Malan said of the play.

Tickets can be purchased in person for $5 on the day of the performance.

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