‘Senior-itis’ Strikes

As Summer And College Near, Play Hits Home

Posted: April 25, 2013

Harrisonburg High School’s spring play, “Senior-itis,” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. April 26 and 27 in the school’s auditorium. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
Students acting in HHS’ “Senior-itis,” directed by library secretary Bradley Walton, agree that the play’s plotline is more “in tune” with their daily lives, according to cast member Tyler Edwards. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
The lights went dim. Heavy blue curtains rolled back. A spotlight shined down on two girls standing on the Harrisonburg High School auditorium stage.

The pair began to talk about their senior year. Then, a pause, followed by an awkward look. “What was my line again?” asked one of the actresses.

A sigh came from library secretary Bradley Walton, director of the play, in the front row. The show is less than two weeks away. Fortunately, it was just rehearsals.

The students will perform the annual spring play, titled “Senior-itis,” at 7:30 p.m. April 26 and 27 in the HHS auditorium.

The play is about a group of seniors trying to get through their final year of high school.

Stevie, played by junior Tyler Edwards, hates school and has no plans for the future, but he may not graduate unless he repeats an English class he flunked the year before.

His guidance counselor, played by sophomore Anna Dick, hooks Stevie up with brainy, college-bound tutor Andrea, played by junior Mariah Flick.

The two establish a friendship that threatens to turn into something more, though they both know it would be a mistake.

Edward said getting to be someone else is what he most enjoys about performing.

“You are able to escape from your own mind; your own world and whatever may be going on in your life at that time; whatever may be stressing you out or if you are dealing with family issues, it’s a good way to escape.”

He said this year’s play is one of the best spring productions he’s been involved in at HHS.

“It’s a lot more in tune with what [we], as students, go through every day.”

Junior Daelynn McCleve, who plays Lauren — an uptight character longing to break out of her mold — said performing in front of a big crowd can be intimidating.

“Sometimes, it can get to your head and you’re just standing there stalk still and can’t remember stuff and, other times, it flows in a way that you are comfortable with the people you are working with. It can go either way.”

Spring Plays
The spring play began nearly 13 years ago. Walton said drama teacher Stan Swartz, who directs the musical for HHS, wanted a full-length non-musical play on his production schedule. Swartz asked him to direct because, at the time, he was already staging a play for his church.

“I jumped at the chance,” Walton said.

The first two plays were Shakespeare’s “Tempus” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Upon completing those, Walton decided to shake things up a bit.

“I was sort of like ‘OK, I have done Shakespeare. I have survived Shakespeare. What is the absolutely craziest thing I could try doing?  I’ll try writing a play.’ ”

A comic book writer for many years, Walton said writing came naturally.

“I am fairly good at imagining conversations in my head. I sometimes describe my writing process as transcribing the voices in my head.”

For the third annual spring play, the 1990 HHS graduate transcribed an original piece called “Monster Hunters.”

“It went OK,” Walton said.

“There were moments I wanted to crawl under my seat and die, but there were other moments that were a pretty good experience.”

The following year, the 1994 Bridgewater College graduate took a shot at writing another play titled “Convention, Two Days of Comic Books Gone Bad.”   

During the play, Walton got another crazy idea.

“I remember sitting in the audience thinking ‘This seems to me like it’s as good as a play that would come out of a publisher’s catalog. I wonder; could I get this play published?’ ”

A few years later, he did. More than 350 of his productions have been staged across the U.S. since 2007. Walton said the best part of directing is watching the young high schoolers grow as performers.

“It is absolutely the students, he said. “Sometimes, they can be very frustrating, but then sometimes opportunity and good things come of the frustrating moments. We have some wonderfully talented students at the school, and I am fortunate to be able to work with some of those kids in my own shows.”

Contact Timothy Schumacher at 574-6265 or tschumacher@dnronline.com.

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