The Yosemite High School Theater Arts Department is currently rehearsing for the world premiere of “Doing the Human Act,” a multi-media play by Lars Thorson, based on the novel, “Very Far Away from Anywhere Else,” by Ursula LeGuin. The play follows two high school seniors trying to figure out where they belong in the world and how to transition from adolescence into adulthood.
Jonathan Wharton plays Owen, an intellectual 17-year-old struggling with high school cliques, his parents expectations, and his own dreams for the future. He meets an 18-year-old musician Natalie, played by Jocelyn Boe, who has similar struggles, but is more focused on her career. As they become friends, they learn that communication can be difficult when emotions become involved. The play merges live action onstage with film sequences that add to and comment on the play.
This project was 20 years in the making.
“While the play itself only took about six months to write, getting the permission of the author’s agent to put the play on was difficult,” writer/director Thorson explained. And so the play sat for years, until one of Thorson’s assistants just happened to pick it up and read it last year. “She said she really liked it, so I approached the agent again, and this time was given a green light. I just knew I had the right kind of kids to play these parts - the nerdy intellectual kids, the introverts, the uncool.”
“I’m kind of amazed at how similar I am to my character,” Boe said. “It’s a little weird ... I can relate to Natalie on a lot of levels, not just the music, but being a little sheltered and just starting to step out of my comfort zone.”
“The beginning of the play definitely mirrors my childhood,” Wharton added, “and it kind of describes me growing up. This is a different role for me. I’ve been in the theater for four years, and have always played comedic roles. This is more dramatic and much more challenging. Being funny comes easy to me, but being dramatic ... well, I have to look a lot deeper to find that.”
With this being her first official year in theater, Boe was amazed to have been selected to play Natalie.
“It’s such a privilege and so exciting to play the female lead in a world premiere,” she said.
“Doing the Human Act” features 20 actors from YHS’s Advanced Theater Arts class and a song with live piano accompaniment.
“I want the audience to feel like they are watching a play and a movie at the same time,” Thorson explained. “The play has a lot of descriptions, and the film sequences help the audience fill in the gaps and better understand and appreciate what Owen is thinking and feeling. I have some very talented actors and a talented cinematographer, Kevin Kirk, so I had the luxury to produce this play at this time.”
Performances are 7 p.m., April 30, May 1-2, in the school’s theater. The evening will also include a short one-act Small World by Tracey Scott Wilson. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $5 for students and senior citizens.
Details: (559) 683-4667, ext. 256.