Yosemite High School drama teacher Lars Thorson selected a play, assigned roles to 25 upper and lower class drama students, oversaw about 50 hours of rehearsals and then watched his cast shine in "Makin' It," last Thursday and Friday at the YHS Theater.
The play, about the good, the bad and the ugly of life in high school, was presented to enthusiastic crowds of nearly 200 each night.
Strong performances were given by Olivia Pearson (high achiever but shy Libby), Sophia O'Meara (Brooke), Ben Hartesveldt (Scott the artist), Christian Cambrelen (football player Karl), Mark Friesen (bully Hunter) and Jonathan Wharton (Howie the nerd).
Pearson, a sophomore at YHS, played Libby, a smart and serious student yet a social outcast that kept to herself.
Although she has acted in "Urban Street" and other plays at Coarsegold Elementary School, this was her first role at Yosemite High.
"Acting has always been something I have wanted to do since I was young," Pearson said. "I liked my part and I could understand what it's like to not know how to express yourself around different types of people. My character Libby was sort of an outcast and she could not fit in with the other kids because she was different. She kept to herself and did not know how to express herself around other people. She ended up tutoring Karl, the football player and she came to realize that she could be herself and didn't have to pretend to be someone else."
Pearson said she really tried to connect herself to the character and use experiences in her own life to make the emotion more real. Her delivery was heartfelt and emotional explaining why she felt 'different.'
"Different. That word again. 'Your so different from the other kids' the teachers always say. Even my father says it. 'When I was your age, I was always with my friends or shooting baskets or just goofing off. You're always up in your room reading.' One day a girl in class asked me what kind of music I liked. Without thinking, I said, 'classical.' She laughed so hard she turned red. I could fit in if I pretended more, played the game but I can't seem to figure out how. 'Different.' It's the ugliest word in the English language. I hate different -- so I guess I hate me."
Thorson called Pearson's performance very sincere.
"Olivia's personality and her role were a good marriage between character and actress," Thorson said.
Pearson said she hopes to get involved with advanced drama next year and do more plays.
"I like trying to become a different person and connect to how other people react to different situations."
Pearson felt everyone really liked the play and that made the entire cast feel good because they worked hard in rehearsals.
"I think a lot of students and adults could connect to at least one of the characters in the play," Pearson said. "A woman told me after one of the performances that the play made her remember what she was like in high school and brought back memories of her high school experience."
Cambrelen, playing the role of the school's star football player Karl, is a senior at YHS and "Makin' It" was the first time on stage for him.
"I knew when I signed-up for the drama class we would be performing a show," Cambrelen said. "The whole cast was excited, along with being nervous on opening night. I thought we all brought it together really well. I really got into my role and had a lot of fun," Cambrelen said. "The whole cast was prepared for opening night."
Cambrelen said he liked how Karl changed during the play, realizing he did not need football to be happy.
"At first Libby tutored him to get his grades up so he could play football and they started to like each other,' Cambrelen said. "We both needed each other and we realized to be happy we did not need to be popular or play football."
Cambrelen, who is a sprinter, hurdler and high jumper on the YHS track team, said the play will be his one and only due to his commitment to track in the spring but will always remember his role in "Makin' It."
"It was a great experience."
Smaller roles but large performances were provided by Maya Mendonca (uptight teacher), Liam Womack (bully Alex) and Trevor Bowman (bully Travis).
Junior Erin Asis received her role just three week prior to opening night that for her was a little "nerve racking" but felt the entire cast did a "fantastic job."
"We received great crowd reaction throughout the play and that makes all the hard work worth while," Asis said.
Kriszti Mendonca, who's daughter, Maya, was in the play, felt the young thespians gave a strong performance.
"The play accurately reflected what a lot of high school students are going through," Kriszti said.
The entire cast was surprised by something that was not in the script. The play ending kiss Scott (Hartesveldt) gave Brooke (O'Meara) that brought a large cheer from the audience.
Thorson has directed more than 50 plays in his 11 years at Yosemite.
"The students need areas to express themselves and the arts gives them that opportunity," Thorson said. "We are lucky the district has maintained the arts as well as they can considering the budgetary challenges they have faced over recent years."
The drama department will present "The Giver," March 14-16. Adapted from the novel by Lois Lowry, student Emma Madsen will direct the play as her student project and proceeds will benefit Walk for Autism.