When the Brainerd High School Theater Department opens its fall 2019 play a week from Thursday, Nov. 7, it will be like no play it has ever performed.
After performing plays such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “12 Angry Jurors” to musicals, such as “Grease” theater students are now preparing for a different type of play -- “Almost, Main,” by John Cariani.
“Almost, Main,” is different because when people think of plays they think of a plot or a storyline. This play does not have those. It consists of vignettes, with each vignette featuring two characters on stage for about 10-15 minutes. When the vignette is complete, the audience will never see the characters again on stage.
BHS will perform the play over two weekends at 7 p.m. Nov. 14-16 and Nov. 22-23; and 2 p.m. Nov. 24 in The Little Theatre at BHS.
BHS Theater Director Karla Johnson said the storylines in the play may be different, but it has a theme. The play is a romantic comedy and all the vignettes involve a couple and their relationships, with some going well while others are not. Each vignette is at a different stage of the relationship, from a couple just entering a relationship, to a relationship going well, to a couple trying to break up but failing, to a married couple going through a rough patch. Each couple lives in a small town in Maine.
“I love this play because of the characterization and there is a lot of character development in it,” Johnson said. “I find it fascinating, as I get hooked on the scene and then it’s done and you have to adjust as it’s a whole new story on stage. It’s unique and I like this.”
Johnson said the biggest challenge in the play is for the students who are portraying the roles of the couples in the longer term relationships of 20 years or more as they are young and have no personal experience of being married or being in a long term relationship. Students were encouraged to pull from outside sources, such as talking to their parents or grandparents about their relationships, including their struggles to help them garner insights on relationships to assist them in portraying their role.
With the different scenes in the play, there is no stationary stage. It has to be adjusted to paint a picture of each setting. There is a scene that takes place in a living room, another on a bench outdoors and another is at a restaurant.
Johnson said this school year is a rebuilding year for the theater department as a lot of seniors from last year graduated. However, there was still a lot of interest from high school students to be in the play. The play casts about 25 actors/actresses, along with the stage crew.
“We have a lot of new faces,” Johnson said. “And we have some kids playing two roles.”
Dean Root is one of those students. He is playing the characters of East and Phil. Root, a sophomore, said East is a repairman, who is a quiet man and wants to get his job done and then go home to watch football. East comes home to find a woman named Glory in his front yard and the two begin talking. The more East learns about Glory, the more in love he feels with her.
“I would say East is slightly complicated to play,” Root said. “He has a big change of emotion, as he goes from not knowing a person at the beginning of the scene to being deeply in love at the end of the scene.
“(As an actor) you have to express all these emotions in a small amount of time. It can be hard to express this, but it’s a lot more fun and it has helped me become a better actor. … Ms. J is amazing to let me be a part of this.”
Root said Phil is a middle-aged man struggling in a marriage. Phil and his wife try to fix their marriage, but the more they try to fix it, the worse it gets.
“They have a hard time cooperating,” Root said. “It’s so much fun to play this role because I’ve only been in comedies. It’s good to play a strong emotional filled scene with Phil. The whole scene is just raw emotions.
“This is sad, but I use a lot of my own sadness to play Phil,” Root said. “Phil is sad. Phil loves his wife, but he can’t express his love property. I use Phil as a positive vent on my emotions and it has helped me.”
Root, who joined theater last fall, said he had no interest in joining theater. In fact, he said his mother told him he would be good at it and she forced him to join.
“I told my mom the only way I would agree to join theater is if the next play is a mystery comedy,” Root said. “Then I came home the next day and she was standing at the door and she was like, ‘Dean, guess what?’ The next play was a mystery comedy.”
Root joined and did “A-Haunting We Will Go,” and said the play was spooky, fun and he learned he enjoyed theater -- to his own surprise.
“My family has always told me I am eccentric,” Root said. “So it is fun to take up a new character and play someone else. I often get bored with myself, so it’s fun to take a character and create them into your own person and build a whole story around it.”
Root added he agrees with his family as there are some days he feels he is eccentric, and some days he doesn’t feel that way.
“I would say I always strive to be myself,” he said.
Root said theater helped him open up as a person and to be more extroverted.
“Through acting I can be a better me,” Root said.
Sophomore Abby Pratt is playing Rhonda, who is not very self-confident and doesn’t think people like her as much as they do.
“She is very tomboyish and she likes to go snowmobiling,” Pratt said of Rhonda. “She doesn’t like to do the most feminist stuff.
“(In her relationship scene), she has been friends with him for a very long time and he is interested in her, but she has no idea. He’s trying to subtly tell her like he is interested in her, but she doesn’t get it. He gives her a gift and it doesn’t go as he planned.”
Pratt said it’s pretty easy to play Rhonda as she is similar to herself in some ways.
Pratt started doing plays when she was 7 at Central Lakes College. She mainly was involved in musicals and she joined the high school theater program last spring for the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“I like to be on stage and to take a break from real life and become someone else for awhile,” she said. “And I love to make people laugh and the overall atmosphere of theater.”
Memorizing lines comes pretty easily for the sophomore. She said when she is acting she tries to think like the character to portray it the best she can.
Junior Gracie Simonson also did a few shows at CLC and joined the high school program her freshman year. Simonson mainly has been involved in the spring and fall shows and performed smaller roles, such as the “horrifying face in the window” in “A-Haunting We Will Go.”
In “Almost, Maine” she is playing Ginette.
“This will be my first speaking role,” Simonson said of Ginette. “I’m a little nervous, but I have a good handle on it.”
Simonson said Ginette is confused about her relationship with Pete. She said the two have been in a “dry” relationship for awhile, and have never been a “touchy, feely” type couple. Ginette wants to confess her love to Pete.
Simonson said she has been practicing a few different confused looks for her role, as Ginette is confused for more than half the scene. Doing facial expressions is one of the junior’s strong points, as she has been involved in the competitive speech team, and has to use facial expressions for her speeches.
Simonson said she is excited for the upcoming play and is happy she joined the theater program.
“I really like community theater and I have made a lot of good friends and made lasting connections,” she said of her theater experience.
Pete is played by Daniel Roehrich.
Ginett is played by Gracie Simonson and the Nov. 23 performance will be played by Mia-Rose Severson.
East, Dean Root.
Glory, Emily-Rose Severson
Jimmy, Miles Guin.
Sandrine, Madi Aberle with understudy, Cadence Porisch.
Waiter, Hunter Armstrong.
Marvalyn, Isabel Haglin with understudy, Jayley Andresen.
Steve, George Gebhard.
Gayle, Gemma Peterson.
Lendall, John Toven.
Randy, Noah Barnhart.
Chad, Jacob Hanson.
Deena, Kiara Wiley with understudy, Nina Nguyen.
Shelly, Jordan Higgins.
Phil, Dean Root.
Marci, Izzy Heldt.
Hope, Olivia Killoran with understudy, Scottie Svoboda.
Daniel, Jacob Hanson.
Voice of Suzette, Scottie Svoboda.
Rhonda, Abby Pratt.
Dave, Noah Barnhart
Stage manager, Skyler Fox.
Assistant stage manager, Kilee Rasmussen.
Lights, Hollie Larson and Quin Villwock.
Sound, Olivia Dilley.
Tech crew, Julian Keller-Heikkila and Dana Porter.
Props, Sammi Menk.
Hair/make-up artists: Maritza Larsen, Amber Cordova, Hannah Kounkel and Cadence Hartwig.