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LHS Spring Play brings comedic ‘normalcy’ back to the Laurel community

By 
Chris Mcconnell
Thursday, April 29, 2021
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From the left: Morgan Rollman, Abigail Molm, Katie LeBrun, Bergen Handegard, Ethan Chatwood, Brett Larkins and Madi Nevin during one of the final scenes of “Whodunit... and to Whom?”

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The cast of “Whodunit...and to Whom?” acknowledges the crowd after their final performance on Sunday at the LHS auditorium. Outlook photos by Chris McConnell

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Arch villain Sheila Crylinkski (Bergen Hangegard) conspires to blow up Grip in the LHS Spring play last weekend.

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Harold Finnegan (Jered Jares) and his storybook wife Trixie (Chloe Maurer) during the LHS Spring Play.

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Grip (Brett Larkins) and Trixie (Chloe Maurer) have a standoff while Anytime (Abigail Molm) watches in horror.

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Grip (Brett Larkins) had a rough night in the opening scene of “Whodunit...and to Whom?”

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Harold’s “actual” wife Tessie Finnegan (Chloe Maurer) gives him an earful last weekend.

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Play Director Doug Anderson addresses the audience before the final performance of the LHS Spring Play on Sunday afternoon.

After getting postponed last year due to the pandemic, the Laurel High School Spring Play was back on last weekend with three performances of the comedy “Whodunit...and to Whom?”

The play focused on carpet salesman Harold Finnegan who hammered out his 13th or 14th third–rate detective story on the typewriter while the characters stopped, started and revised their actions based on how he changed the story. The characters (or “thought forms”) became frustrated with his plot and character development skills and began to offer their own suggestions. Then the story went off the rails with the introduction of new characters and hilarious twists. By the end of the play the audience didn’t know who was writing the story; Harold or the thought forms.

The students had planned to perform the same play last year, but it was cancelled due to the school closure. LHS Drama coach and play Director Doug Anderson said when he got word in February that it was back on, “I was extremely excited and couldn’t wait to get started. I was anxious to see which students would show up for the auditions. I knew most of my drama kids would be there and I knew some speech and debate kids would show up as well.”

Freshman Jered Jares, who played lead character Harold Finnegan, said this was his first attempt at acting and it took him awhile to get in the flow during the nearly two months of practice leading up to the performance. “We did a lot of rehearsing and I got pretty comfortable with my role. The nerves came and went but I was able to recover. It was usually right before the second act when I was the most nervous.”

Sophomore Abigail Molm (who is a State Champion in Dramatic Theatre) said this was also her first time in a play. She played the characters of Anytime and Christina (Honey Lake). She said she got nervous while getting ready to start but said, “We helped each other out if someone forgot their lines and the performances went smoothly.”

Senior Brett Larkins who played Detective Grip said the nerves weren’t as bad as he thought they would be and credited his experience on the drama team with helping prepare him for the role. He had a Top–4 finish in the Humorous Solo category at State this year and said, because the State meet was held virtually, “It was good practice to be able to perform without an audience” earlier in the school year.

Junior Chloe Maurer played Tessie Finniegan, Harold’s verbally abusive real–life wife. Maurer had previous acting experience and was involved in the “Back to the 80s” musical and the spring play her freshman year. She said that experience and all the rehearsals helped, but during one performance last weekend she completely forgot her line. “I was able to recover though.”

All four actors said that even though they knew each other from speech drama and debate, rehearsing together created a bond which enhanced the performance. “We are all pretty comfortable with each other. The dynamic was smooth, plus Anderson was stabilizing for us” Jared said. Abigail added, “We all got to know each other and what our limits were.”

Although there were no physical disasters where a part of the set fell down or broke, Brett did inadvertently put his foot through the wall in one scene and said, “I thought I would break the TV from pounding on it.”

Abigail and Chloe said they did get some bruises from “all the throwing and falling to the floor.”

Jered said the elementary and middle schools were unable to attend the shows because of COVID restrictions, but said, “We’re thinking about having a dinner theatre next year to bring some younger kids to the performance.” Maurer said, “I hope West and Graff can come over and watch next year.”

“Bringing more of the arts back to the schools is a passion of mine,” Anderson said. “From the day after auditions, we had our cast set, tech crew set, stage manager set, and set design ready to go. These kids were ready to go each and every day we had rehearsal. One of my favorite things about the process of rehearsing is seeing the kids be comfortable with their lines, understanding blocking, voice projection and fully developing into their character and start to offer ideas of what their character should do. They were learning real “Acting 101” even though they didn’t realize it. They figured out that you don’t have to be a “drama” kid to do this, you can be the debater or speech kid, you can be the popular kid, you can be that kid sitting in English class wanting to get involved but perhaps too scared to do it.

It was my true honor to have directed these kids. I had an amazing time and I sure hope they did too. After we took down the set after our last show the one line that at least half of the kids was saying was, “What will be the show for next year?”

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