Oakdale High School’s Drama Department is trying a little something different this winter.
While it is customary for two productions – sometimes three – to be presented each year, teacher Lezlie Acker offered her 2022-2023 officers a bit of a different challenge.
The OHS Choir/Drama teacher shared at the conclusion of the 2022 school year, the incoming Drama Club Officers, in meeting with their incoming teacher, said that they wanted to perform more than one musical. Acker had been transparent with the students, noting that for her first year she planned to stage one musical and one straight play.
After hearing their request, the teacher put them to the challenge of staging their own musical with her as producer. A task which would entail their choosing of the script, casting, directing, the complete process all up to them.
“I told them about some musical reviews and some cheaper ones,” the teacher shared of options presented, “and Kailey said, can we just write one? So, I said absolutely.”
Kailey Robare, Drama Club Historian, shared it was a challenge she was not just up for, but excited about. During the course of three weeks over summer, the OHS student wrote the upcoming production, “No Sleep for the Swingers,” a juke box musical.
“It’s a musical assembled from popular songs. It’s not an original score,” the writer/co-director shared.
With the help of fellow officer, Jackson Hammond, Drama Club Vice-President, the finishing touches were put on the script and it was presented to their teacher.
“Jackson helped me look at bits of plot and definitely dialogue, which was a struggle of mine,” Robare said of her editing partner. “He helped me fix it and make it read smoother.”
Acker said she felt there was something special with this group of officers; however, was unsure of what they would produce. When the students returned to campus for the 2022-23 school year she was presented with a complete script.
“I haven’t done student written, because that was Kailey’s idea,” she said of former student productions. “I have done student produced plays before. But this came about because they said please can we do another musical.”
And so became the production which will be hosted Friday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.; with matinee shows, Saturday, Feb. 5 and Sunday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. The play will be presented at the OHS Theater. Tickets are $10 per person and may be purchased through Friday. Jan. 27 from an OHS Drama Student or beginning Monday, Jan. 30 at the OHS Business Office.
Auditions for this Winter production were staged prior to Winter Break, an event which proved to be the beginning of the learning process for the duo and their fellow officers. Over 20 students auditioned for the production and 17 were cast.
“Overall, the casting took at least four hours, outside of auditions,” Hammond said of the officers’ deliberation once auditions were done.
“It’s been pretty drama free,” their teacher added, noting the uniqueness of that given the context. “They’ve done a good job. I think when they cast, they did that with it in mind.”
Once the cast list was set and the officers found their respective spots within the production team, more lessons were learned. Robare and Hammond candidly shared being student directors brings with it, its own set of challenges.
“It’s been difficult, but it’s also been very enjoyable,” Robare shared of managing their peers. “To actually create something and see a product coming out of it. Actually, people are paying to see that and it’s crazy. That’s a definite motivator.”
Hammond echoed his co-director’s sentiments, stating that each hurdle, which may seem daunting at the time, is not so much so when they look back at each task.
Robare further shared that the idea for “No Sleep for the Swingers,” was first prompted by the Drama Club Officers.
“We all decided swing dancing is really cool,” she said, noting she thought it would be cool to keep the swing dancing but add a story line and dialogue as well.
Set in the late 1920s during the Prohibition, the play takes place in a Speak Easy where there’s a prize for a swing dance competition. As the audience follows the storyline, they will come to learn there’s more happening within the Speak Easy than just dancing, but an additional mystery: a murder.
“It’s well researched,” Acker said of the play and the student duo behind the musical. “When we had the first read through, there’s period slang. Just keeping track of all the characters. Their brains are brilliant. They are beyond their years.”
As the students listen to their teacher speak, they acknowledge the amount of work that goes into a production and their new found appreciation for the commitment of their instructor.
“Maybe a career in drama is not for me,” Hammond said of his largest takeaway.
As the trio chuckle at that realization, Robare added she’s learned from their mistakes as well as what they’ve done right.
“It’s been a fun experience either way,” Robare said.
Amidst the work and corralling their peers from a leadership role, Hammond stated the production was coming together quite well.
“It might have been a little different. I don’t even remember anymore,” Robare said of changes over time. “There’s no room to be disappointed when the finished product is this. It’s just like wow, it’s really happening.”
The co-directors equally shared an additional success of the overall production goes to the student team which has put their all into making this ready for the audience. It’s a small army which includes: Sarah Bedwell, Choreographer; Gabriella McDonald, Music Director; Holly Waddell, Make-up and Hair; Charlie Leon, Technical Director; Daniel Campbell, Construction Lead; and Seth Rodrigues, Company Manager.
“I knew they knew what a juke box musical was, but creating a story around that all within the same time period, that in and of itself is hard,” the teacher acknowledged. “I’m not going to say I’m surprised, because I’m not. They were just really motivated.”