Students work on professional show

At Thomas Dale High School, a group of Speciatly Center seniors have added the challenge of working on a professional theatre production to the already impressive list of responsibilities they juggle.

Four seniors and Keri Wormald, a theatre teacher at Thomas Dale, are involved in the production of Full Plate Collection, a new play by Irene Ziegler. Wormald, who was interviewed with her students on Monday, is directing the production, which will complete its run at the Little Theatre on March 27.

“I think that this show has a lot of potential to move on,” she said. “It’s going over hugely with the audience. … People are laughing their heads off, and [the show’s] got something to say.”

One of the project’s primary goals was to mentor young women, Wormald said, but it’s also been “fascinating to work on a new piece of writing.” The play was created for “Minds Wide Open:  Virginia Celebrates Women In The Arts 2010,” a statewide initiative showcasing women artists in all performance areas and the visual arts.

Courtney McCotter, 18, has a leading role in the production. She got involved early by doing research on a female icon – Barbie, she said. Wormald “started kind of giving me the squinty eyes in October,” Courtney said, and told Courtney there was a part in the show she could pull off.

“I ended up getting the part, which was completely frightening, but a very good thing, because this is what I want to do with my life,” Courtney said. The rehearsal process was a “completely different level” than they have for high school productions, and learning to call Wormald “Keri” was a challenge, she said.

Savannah Hatcher, 17, like the other students, seized the opportunity to work with professionals.

“I wanted to take on something that was a pretty big project,” said Savannah, who is running sound for the show. Wormald pointed out that the show has a lot of sound cues.

From the booth, Savannah said, she gets to see how different the show can be from performance to performance.

Kirsten Harmon, 17, is on the backstage crew, she said, but she moves more than props.

“I have the special job of moving the actresses out on stage,” she said, and the audience watches her as she moves the women, acting like some are heavier than others. Wormald said there’s also a scene where Kirsten and the rest of the crew is visible as it watches a home-shopping show.

“You’re in the play,” Wormald told Kirsten. “Trust me.”

Kirsten said she’s also taken time to ask the professional actresses how they prepare for their roles.

Rachel Gay, the production’s stage manager, has been involved in theater since middle school, and was the stage manager for Thomas Dale’s production of Threepenny Opera. Working on Full Plate Collection “just seemed like a natural progression,” she said, and she’s learned to interact and hold her own with adults in a professional atmosphere.

“I have, in the past, had problems being an authority figure, … and now it’s just like, ‘You go,’ so I just learned to assert myself more,” said Rachel, who’s 18. “And it’s carried over to my day-to-day life. I feel like I don’t take nothin’ from nobody,” she added, drawing laughs from her peers.

Though the work seems overwhelming at times, the students said their passion for the theatre keeps them coming back.

“I guess the simple answer is love,” Rachel said. “It’s always been a lot of work, but it’s always worth it. … When we put up a little slice of humanity on stage, I feel like we remind people of their own humanity.”

Full Plate Collection will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at The Little Theatre, located inside the Empire Theatre, at 114 W. Broad Street, Richmond. For tickets, call 282-2620.

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