Applewood Christian School will present its spring play with a cast of 29 students, the largest in the history of the school’s drama department.
Applewood Drama and Spanish Teacher Dharma Leon said Wednesday she originally wanted to present “The Diary of Anne Frank,” but students asked if they could work on a comedy.
Leon decided an adaptation by Rebecca Gellott of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice” would be a good fit.
“… My seniors, they wanted a comedy,” she said. “The girls were in love with ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ I found an adaptation that I liked and it’s a faster running (play). We had done ‘Sense and Sensibility’ in 2009 … and we already had some costumes.”
Leon added that what impressed her the most was that so many tried out for the play. The school has a total of 60 students.
“It’s hard to get boys involved, we’re very happy,” she added. “We have 29 actors and out of those 29, we have 10 homeschoolers.”
Auditions began at the end of January and students have been practicing for six weeks.
“We rehearse every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Leon said. “As we are getting closer, we rehearse Saturdays and Thursdays.”
Assistant Director for the play is 2015 Applewood graduate Katelynn Nevils and stage manager is senior Megan Bried. Leon noted all the “wonderful” parents who helped build the sets and the students who painted and put up wallpaper.
Having enough period costumes for 29 people might be a problem, but not for Applewood. Most of the period costumes have been sewn by parents and women of Applewood Church. Some of the costumes were retained from “Sense and Sensibility” and a few items were borrowed from the Liberty Center Association for the Arts.
“We love this era, and it’s very hard to find costumes in this era,” Leon said. “Really, no costume shops sell you Regency-era costumes.”
Clothing during this era of history were more simple, Leon stated, and had a neo-classic look.
“I love Jane Austen,” Leon said. “It’s a romantic era in British history, but it’s a novel of manners and a comedy of manners of the gentry, the nobility and the middle class.”
Leon appreciates Austen’s wit that occurs in her novels set in English Regency era and French Empire era of 1800 to 1830.
“For students at this level it is a challenge because of the way the English is written,” she added. “But it’s not as challenging as doing Shakespeare. It’s still reachable. The audience of fellow peers can understand and get the jokes. It is more relatable than a Shakespeare play that you have to study to understand the sarcasm or the wit.”
She added that she liked this particular adaption of “Pride and Prejudice” because it moved at a faster pace. Furniture and sets are changed out quicker suggesting a different location.
Presenting plays of different eras allows Leon to teach her students the history behind the production. They often watch tutorials and videos to make sure they have the era’s history correct. Students often practice hairstyles and makeup to look authentic on stage.
“I love to see them light up,” Leon said. “When they light up on stage, that light-bulb moment, and they say ‘oh I want to do this again!’ That’s the reward. They all look so wonderful when they’re all dressed up.”
Leon added that Applewood has been developing their drama program for several years.
“It has been nine years building up the drama department,” she said. “It was a dream of the principal at the time. Her dream was there would be a drama program that would invite people from the community and it would be something that the students could build up and learn.
“She herself had been impacted by being in a play,” Leon noted. “She had been very shy and very introverted. She one day auditioned with her sister and she got a part. From there she bloomed to become a principal of our school.”
Although many may not realize it, Leon said drama helps students develop needed language and communication skills.
“I hope we can continue performing arts,” she said. ” … You will still need to speak clearly, to present yourself boldly and make yourself communicate clearly — those are all life skills we need to learn.”
“Pride and Prejudice” will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday, April 29 and at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at Applewood Christian School, 25396 state Route O. Tickets may be purchased from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the school or at the door. The cost is $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students, $4 for preschool children and $25 for a family. Those attending may dress up and dance the Virginia Reel with the cast during intermission.
For more information call 827-4700.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss; photos by Faith Bemiss | Democrat