Village Players kick off fall season with topical playWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Director Carol Ann Erford said any similarities between the school violence in “From Up Here” and the recent United States shootings are coincidental.
The show, written by Liz Flahive, opened off-Broadway in 2008, according to www.playbill.com. It follows Kenny, who was suspended after bringing a gun to school.
Even though it has dark subject matter, Erford said it is funny, and makes more sense when the audience realizes why Kenny had the weapon.
“It’s a drama with a lot of humor,” Erford said. “I don’t think anyone will come out depressed; they will come out hopeful. It’s not a total downer.”
The play, running Sept. 7 to 22 at The Village Players Theatre on Upton Avenue, has adult language, but because of its timeliness, Erford said some younger teenagers should see it, just accompanied with an adult.
Erford has worked with The Village Players on and off for 20 years, but only started directing five years ago. She will be directing two more plays at The Toledo Repertoire Theatre later this season.
Erford liked the way the teenagers and adults react to Kenny in “From Up Here,” which is why she was interested in directing it. Work on the play began in July.
The cast is divided between teenagers and adults. Erford has worked with or seen almost the whole cast before and said they are “really on the ball.”
Other cast members include 14-year-old Cassandra Bodenmiller playing Lauren, Kenny’s sister, and Samantha Rousos as Kenny’s mother, Grace.
“I feel like I also teach, especially the teenagers,” Erford said. “They’re learning new sets of rules. It’s interesting to see how they handle it.”
One of the youngest cast members, Daniel Hojnacki, is 15 years old and is playing the 17-year-old Kenny. Hojnacki said he was interested in playing the darker role.
“It’s topical,” Hojnacki said. “It sort of ties in well with news stories.”
The shooting at “The Dark Knight Rises” midnight showing in July happened after Hojnacki had the role, but it made him look into it more. No one really understands the people behind massacres, he said.
Hojnacki said the part demands more body language than spoken lines.
“The challenge is to relate … without saying too much,” Hojnacki said. “You still have to be in your character when you’re not talking.”
Hojnacki has been acting with The Children’s Theatre Workshop, a theater group for youth 5 to 18 years old, for two years. He said he liked the idea of playing a more mature character central to the storyline.
“This character is not a cartoon, he’s a human being,” Hojnacki said.
Hojnacki also said the script doesn’t give much direction, so the actors have to be more involved in their roles. They have to “figure out the motives behind each line.”
“Danny is his own man and has his own ideas,” Erford said in an email. “He surprised me with the professionalism he has brought to the show. He takes suggestions and directions earnestly.”
Guests will be treated to new renovations at The Village Players Theatre on opening night, said Vice President of Development Chris Jagodzinski. The theater has new paint and seating and promises a better performance with their new sound and light booths.
“Guests can look forward to a whole new look when they walk in our lobby,” Jagodzinski said in an email. The renovations have taken about two months and will be complete before opening night of “From Up Here.”
“The Village is thrilled about the first show,” Jagodzinski said. “The majority of our cast is new to The Village Players Theatre and rehearsals have been going wonderful … the cast has been putting in numerous hours rehearsing and working together.”
Opening night of “From Up Here” is Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale through the website thevillageplayers.org or by calling (419) 472-6817. Tickets will also be available at the door. Regular admission is $16 and seniors and students cost $14.