The Yosemite High School Theater Arts Department will present Tom Griffith’s play, “The Boys Next Door” and “The Girls Next Door,” 7 p.m., Nov. 18 - 21, in the YHS theater. The play raises the question of how society cares for its most vulnerable citizens and how happiness can often be found in the oddest of places.
“We will feature two casts performing the same poignant play about developmentally disabled adults trying to function in the world,” YHS Theater Arts teacher and director, Lars Thorson, explained.
The reason for two casts, according to Thorson, is simple. By doing so, he is able to give 12 students, rather than six, the opportunity to play meaty, interesting roles.
The play centers around four adults who live together in a group home supervised by a social worker. These adults, who all have varying degrees of intellectual and emotional disabilities, do their best to work and socially interact with others around them, while encountering humorous and touching challenges along the way.
“I chose this play because it speaks for those who are most helpless in our society. It illuminates the challenges of putting people with different disabilities together in a group home environment,” Thorson continued.
“The Boys Next Door” features YHS seniors, Kevin Kirk, Paul Esposito, Ethan Solomon, and juniors Dylan Thacker and Alex Williams.
“It’s tricky because the audience has to laugh at what these men do and say, but not laugh at them because they’re disabled,” Solomon said. “The play has a great message and we’re enjoying working on it.”
“The Girls Next Door” features YHS seniors Jessica Fine, Gianna DeFelice, Jaecie Madaus, Mackenzine Behrens, and junior Elise Keeler.
“The audience will cry both happy tears and sad tears,” Keeler said, “and it will definitely make them more aware that these people have feelings, that they have struggles - just like everyone else.”
“We have a special ed class on campus,” Fine explained, “and I hope this play brings more awareness to our students, and to the community. I play the social worker and I’ve learned just how much patience it takes dealing with this population.”
This is the first time Thacker will perform on stage. When asked about the possibility of opening night jitters, he began, “It feels great to be on stage. I may be a little nervous at first, but should be able to get through it without ....”
Before Thacker could finish his sentence, his co-stars threw out words: “hiccups,” “butterflies,” “issues.”
“Yeah, any of those,” he chuckled.
It demonstrated the comfortable camaraderie the cast shares. They also share an excitement about performing in a play with such a meaningful message.
“As the action unfolds, we laugh at the silly antics, and weep at the misunderstandings and painful domestic issues,” Thorson said. “While it has some laughs, it also shows the confusion and sadness faced by people who do not always understand how the world works. This play helps us remember that everyone deserves a chance at happiness, and that happiness is defined by people in very different ways.”
“In the end, no matter who you are, every person matters,” DeFelice concluded, “ ... we’re all human beings on the same journey.”
Performance dates for “The Boys Next Door” are Nov. 19 and 21, and for “The Girls Next Door,” Nov. 18 and 20. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students, and $5 for students with ASB cards.
Details: (559) 683-4667.