This is a Test

Steinbach Theatre was transformed into a classroom last weekend as students from the class of 2010 performed the Junior Show, “This is a Test,” directed by Theater Instructor Bill Murray. This play, written by Stephen Gregg, is a comedy based on the frightening reality of taking an exam, attracted sold-out crowds on Friday and Saturday after a modest audience turnout during the Thursday night opening. The audience appreciated the play’s humorous perspective on the common experience of not studying for a test and suffering the consequences. I had the great pleasure of acting a part in this show and was cast as the character Alan, whose sloppy attire, quirky personality and lack of self-confidence remind us all of our less-affirming moments. When we read through the script at our first rehearsal back in February, I remember that the cast unanimously felt disappointed. Not only was the play short, merely twenty-six pages, but also the text seemed tedious and dull. Since only a few actors shared the bulk of the lines, the rest of the cast felt worthless and unimportant. In fact, many decided to skip rehearsals until the penultimate week. Nevertheless, Murray twisted the text to involve everyone. Throughout the play, three voices from Alan’s conscience echo with memories from the past and reflections into his seemingly bleak future. Rachel Zappala, Ziwe Fumudoh and Kim Kohn brilliantly conveyed the wit and wisdom of these somewhat obnoxious yet insightful figures. Their exaggerated and playful movements, such as dashing across the stage, poking different parts of my face and dancing between the desks brought a unique and exciting dynamic to the show. As Theater Instructor Mark Efinger observed during one of the first rehearsals, their energy and enthusiasm became contagious for the other actors. Their boldness and alacrity to bring repetitive and often boring lines to an outrageous level became the show’s defining touch, bringing humor into even the most mundane circumstances. Murray demonstrated his original and entertaining blocking in many scenes, namely the scene with the stern teacher, performed by Audrey Adu, and Evan, the hot-shot of the class, played by Charlie Walters. Adu and Walters, using their body language to enhance the text, transformed an ordinary exchange into a scandalous love affair between the teacher and student. Lois, Alan’s ex-girlfriend, played by Lily Shaffer, and Alan’s mother, played by Jenn Schaffer, added complexity to their characters, which contributed a lot to the overall product. Schaffer brought a new, annoyingly affectionate level to her character’s persona by pinching my cheeks and tugging my shirt with exaggerated motherly gestures. Furthermore, the voice reading each question, played by Matt Kelley, turned into a fashionable game show host, popping out from backstage in the last scene to deliver the grand finale. Through developing the play and overcoming our initial doubts, we found that the process brought us closer together. Even the tech crew, led by the stage manager Amberly Tenney ’08 soon became a part of the family. From painting a pink game show stand for five hours on a Sunday afternoon to striking the set after our last performance, we each became attached to our show and the people involved in it. Schaffer summed up everyone’s feelings, saying, “Working on the Junior Show was one of the best bonding experiences I went through with my 2010 classmates. The camaraderie formed over a simple script with infinite innuendoes can never be underestimated.” Now, looking back, the term “Junior Show” seems almost degrading. Although most of us initially doubted the level of excellence that would exist in a show exclusively for first-year students, the audience and actors agreed that the final product was a much greater success than expected. We surprised ourselves by transforming the monotonous text into a memorable performance. The secret was going beyond our limits and taking our characters to the extreme at every opportunity. This was not only a test of our ability to produce a farce, it was a test of how well we could build a farce that we liked, could relate to and could have fun with. As Alan says, “This is the end,” but what we’ve learned and the memories we’ve created will always remain.