Review by Christina Huber, Mercy McAuley High School Cappies Critic Team
It's safe to say that Saint Ursula Academy's production of "Just A High School Play" wasn't just any ordinary play. As the stereotypes of high school were brought to life, love, humor, and the perfect dash of drama surrounded the stage magnificently.
Written by E. Eugene Perry , "Just A High School Play" addresses the eighteen characters who represent all of the 51,173,992 high school students in the United States. The show touches on the students and their journey to self-discovery throughout their high school years. As the students approach the end of their senior year in a small town high school, they come in contact with their individualism and accept who they are despite the thoughts of others.
The delightful production was anchored by the inventive concepts and effects that enhanced the show tremendously. As the experiences of various people in the Saint Ursula community were shared, it allowed the characters to bring to life the emotions and feelings that are felt during high school. Whether a current high school student or a former student, you were able to reminisce walking through the halls every day and the feeling of new beginnings. The use of various set pieces by the characters was incredibly captivating as the different locations of a high school were brought to life.
Although each and every character contributed a great deal to the production, remarkable performances include those of Colin Dunaway and Addy Somerville who carried a significant amount of the plot with their investment in their characters. They truly embodied the heart-searching and contemplation that can take place during high school. Their characters of Mark Sanders and Katie McGrew exemplified the idea that searching for who you truly are is perfectly acceptable and that confidence is key.
Extraordinary performances also include those of Patrick Rogers, whose comedic abilities provided the production with light-hearted elements. The unity as Molly Blome Sadie Taylor, and Kat Zimmerman danced as one was simply beautiful in every way. Their movements were brought to life by their flawless abilities and undying dedication.
Technically, Saint Ursula's production was undoubtedly impressive. The lighting remained impeccable throughout the production's entirety. Led by Shannon Donovan and Paige Smith, the video productions were executed wonderfully and were incredibly intriguing. Additionally, each and every costume perfectly displayed the background of each character.
Saint Ursula's production was terrific in every way and concluded with the fact that you should never be anyone but your true authentic self.
Review by Sydney Cooper, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
Anyone who's ever been to high school will recognize them all: the Jock, the Shy Kid, the Gossip, the Cheerleader, the Joker, the Brain, the New Kid, the Hunk, the Actress, the Trouble Maker, the Observer, and the Poet. And in St. Ursula Academy's production of " Just a High School Play," they explored these stereotypes thoroughly.
Written by E. Eugene Perry , this contemporary play takes place in a small, rural town and follows the lives of eighteen seniors at the end of their high school careers. These monologues depict the feelings of what it is like to be the stereotype for their school without others getting to know them first. Each of the characters figure out small parts about themselves as the play progresses, but they never change who they are on the outside, showing that even though the high schoolers have multi-faceted personalities, no one ever sees them because that is not how they portray themselves to the rest of the world.
The overall element that put the show all together was the use of video projections in between scenes. The video performance crew, Yulia Feist and Kate Sebastian, decided that a great way to make the show more contemporary was to add the videos in the show asking teachers and students about their own experience during high school. Some of the elements of the videos were a music video depicting what it is like to be self-conscious in high school and interviews from the teachers and students at St. Ursula Academy. This extra element showed how every person's experience in high school is completely different.
As well as having great videos, the lead actor, Colin Dunaway, did a phenomenal job portraying the multiple sides of the baseball and track jock, Mark Sanders. Colin used great facial expressions and space of the stage. His voice for the character and body language mimicked that of a stereotypical jock very well, even when he was explaining his love for theatre. He was very good at being exposed, yet keeping a cool composure showing the deeper emotional vulnerability to his character.
Even though the show had some serious themes to it, comic actor Patrick Rogers lightened up some of the more challenging parts of the show with jokes as his character, Jason Allen. Jason came intermittently throughout the show to tell witty jokes, mumble punch lines to the audience, and make fun of specific characters at time to either lighten up the crowd or make social commentary about some of the other students at the school. His character added to some of the gossipy attitudes in the production as well as made some of the characters feel bad about themselves because they saw how their personalities fit the stereotype of their character.
To add onto the talent of the actors, the props crew heads, Reilly Dolan and Maura Donovan, helped to shape for the audience what a high school looked like in 2010. All of the instruments that were used were stereotypical ones that are always found in the hallways; the small iphones, bulky backpacks, and whiteboards, really illuminated the era that the students were from. Props design is incredibly difficult for dealing with specific time periods, but the props crew really made the rest of the set and the story come alive.
With fantastic actors and a talented crew, Saint Ursula Academy gave an incredibly high quality and thought-provoking performance that transcends time; high school is hard for everyone.
Review by Sujaya Sunkara, William Mason High School Cappies Critic Team
Everybody knows the high school stereotypes. The Jocks, the Nerds, the Cheerleaders, the Theatre Geeks, the Band Kids, and so many more. "Just a High School Play" covers all of these normalized adolescent stigmas.
"Just a High School Play" by E. Eugene Perry is a contemporary concept play that shines a light on eighteen seniors of a rural high school getting ready to graduate, and their opinions and experiences of what it was like to grow up going to public school. "Just a High School Play" has a multi-level view on stereotyping. There's the three basic levels of Brains, Jocks, and Aggies, who are the students heavily involved in the town's agriculturalism. Then there's the subgroups of individualized stereotypes such as the New Kid and the Gossip.
St. Ursula Academy tackled this show with a very contemporary and intelligent outlook on the concept piece. The directors decided to set the show in a more modern time period to make the show more relatable to its viewers, and they also included videos that their students produced of alumni outlooks of how their high school experience was. This inclusion of authentic and individual quotes helped to further drive the concept of the show, which was honest accounts of the typical high school experience.
Addy Somerville was a standout performer who shined a light on the negative sides of the high school experience. Her character, Katie McGrew, was the shunned upon "tramp" as many characters stated who was "involved" with many male students at their school. She emotionally spoke about how the rumors were false and that she hated how everyone saw her as something she wasn't. Somerville brought a great sense of humility and groundedness to her role, pulling at heartstrings and reminding all of the cattiness and hubris of fellow high schools students.
One of the most stand-out performances of the entire production was the contemporary choreography and dancing of part of the cast and crew. In order to convey some artistic and more abstract ideas, students of the production added small lyrical dance pieces to the show. Eva Finni, Abby Mentzel, and Sadie Taylor all choreographed dances to songs such as "Brave" by Sara Bareilles and "Home" by Dan Croll, and their choreography was performed on stage by Molly Blome, Sadie Taylor, and Kat Zimmerman. The pieces expressed so many raw and critical adolescent emotions and showcased beautiful talent from St. Ursula Academy.
The Stage Management Team handled the more modern technological standpoints of the show beautifully. Not only did they call cues of lights and manage mics, they also had to call the cues of the videos that were produced for the show. They managed the new obstacle without any hiccups and helped to solidify the nostalgia and the relevance of the show.
Overall, St. Ursula Academy tackled the extremely common idea of high school stereotypes with eloquence and poise. It spoke to all students and adults alike. Remember the Golden Rule as you approach, experience, or reflect on high school; treat others the way you want to be treated.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“Although all the characters were important in understanding the motif of the play, Addy Somerville's role of Katie McGrew and Colin Dunaway's role of Mark Sanders were often talked about within narration and had monologues throughout the majority of the show. The performances by these individuals were well thought out and had star quality, even in the backgrounds of scenes.”
-Loghan Currin, Simon Kenton High School
“The show's lighting and sound provided a pace for the production and the execution of the two was excellent. The costuming fit the time period well and made it easy to distinguish the stereotype each character was representing. For instance, the Letterman jackets worn by both Mark Sanders and Craig Bowerman made them stand out among the rest of the cast as the ‘Jocks.’ Finally, the simple set fit the show perfectly by creating a realistic high school atmosphere.”
-Abby Fortney, Simon Kenton High School
“Each actor had a stereotype to embody: The Jock, The Cheerleader, The Nerd, The New Kid, and so on. Craig Bowerman and Jessica Regan, played by Lukas Hummeldorf and Kara Scullin, were the resident athletes, pushing the boundaries of what to expect from high school athletes with their engaging interactions with one another. For each second of her powerful monologues, Scullin proved that cheerleaders are much more powerful than society believes them to be--so powerful they could turn a football player into a soprano.”
-Natalie Muglia, William Mason High School
“Throughout the show, there were videos played that were interviews of past, present, and future high school students reflecting on their high school experiences. They were asked questions like what they found difficult about high school or to describe high school in one word. They provided a nice break from the action of the show and often were quite hilarious. Another technical highlight was how the costumes for each character accurately represented their stereotype. The jocks were in letterman jackets, the nerds were in sweaters and button downs, while the farm kids were in blue jeans and flannels.”
-Emma Erion, Mercy McAuley High School
“Some of the stand-out characters were Colleen, Mark, and Gayle, played by Kat Sweeney, Colin Dunaway, and Yasmeen Porter respectively. During the show, these characters were involved more than others and added to the story. Mark was a jock who loved Shakespeare. Colleen was an actor with dad issues, and Gayle was a poet who lived in a world of fantasies. All of these roles were played in an incredible manner.”
-Delaney Jennings, Randall K. Cooper High School
“The technical aspects of this show were equally strong. Perhaps one of the most impressive parts of this production was the incorporation of video effects. The special effects team (made up of Becca Reddy, Hannah Moore, and Mary Koenig) interviewed students, teachers, and alumni about their time in high school and edited the responses together to create video montages. The responses were humorous, witty, sweet, and meaningful and helped show the different sides of high school. The special effects team also recorded a music video which bolstered the themes of the show.”
-Jane Nalbandian, School for Creative & Performing Arts
“Saint Ursula Academy used movement to tell the story of ‘Just a High School Play,’ most notably when Christopher Coulter, played by Grant Baxla, literally runs into Katie McGrew, played by Addy Somerville. The cast created the chaotic feeling of a hallway while classes are changing until Christopher bumps into Katie. Immediately, everyone moved in slow motion, another cast member grabbing Katie's backpack to suspend it as she crumpled to ground. Suddenly, on a cue from Chris's narration, the scene rushed back to full speed. The contrast in pacing emphasized how important this moment was to both Christopher and Katie and was visually stunning.”
-Juliana Zacher, William Mason High School
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.