COTTONWOOD - Mingus Union High School's theater group A.T.O.R.T. - A Troupe Of Ridiculous Thespians - is now in dress rehearsals for its first theater production of the school year - Ken Ludwig's comedy Lend Me A Tenor.
James Ball, director and drama teacher, describes the play as a hysterical farce that's been performed, revived and won Tony Awards.
"I saw Lend Me A Tenor when I was in high school," Ball said. "I remember laughing a lot, and it stuck with me."
Ball said that this production, after coming off The Beauty and the Beast, which was very kid friendly, is more PG13.
"It's a comedy of errors," he said.
The production has a cast of eight, and they have had to learn a lot of opera references. Fortunately, Ball majored in opera music theater, and he has been able to familiarize the cast with all of the necessary terms.
"They love that it's very tangible and very exhausting to do comedy," he said. "It's only a cast of eight, so they love the closeness they've had with each other."
He said that some of the rehearsals have been more laughing than getting things done. "Last night, I laughed until I cried," he said, "and I've seen it many times."
Ball said that this production is the first time he has had an assistant director. Jessica Jaramillo is the assistant. "She's awesome," Ball said.
Jaramillo said she is very happy to be part of the production. "I love the kids," she said. "The show is going to be hilarious."
Six of the eight cast members are seniors, and five of them have been with Ball for four years.
Junior Brett Janica has been in theater all three years and has been involved as a cast or crew member in all of the school's productions during those years. He is playing Max.
"It's a very, very funny play," Brett said. "A number of times we've had to just stop and laugh."
He said he believes comedy is easer and more enjoyable than dramatic plays. But he admits that the timing required to perform comedy can be difficult.
"You want to keep it moving, to keep the audience's attention," he said.
Brett said he is very interested in pursuing acting beyond high school and is thinking about majoring in theatrical arts.
"I've always loved theater, and I've always wanted to be an actor," Brett said.
He has been in at least one production every year since third grade.
Natalie Lampros is a senior who has been involved as a cast or crew member in every school production since she was a freshman. She plays Maggie.
She was in another comedy, You Can't Take It With You, presented by A.T.O.R.T.
She likes doing comedies. "They are a lot of fun," she said. "It's challenging to stay together at times."
She said the cast knows they shouldn't crack up during rehearsals, but, at times, they can't help themselves.
"The first few rehearsals we were laughing all the time," Natalie said. But she said they got used to the funny parts after going over them several times.
Natalie doesn't think she will pursue theater in college. She said she'd like to, "But I really want to support myself." Although she said she might minor in theater in college.
"It is a passion of mine, but I think it would be difficult to make it on an acting degree," Natalie said.
Senior Troy Jackson is also a senior who has been in theater all four years of high school. He plays Henry Saunders.
He says comedy can be difficult to do. "Because you don't know if you're funny until you hear the audience's response."
Troy says timing is especially key in this play. But he doesn't think rehearsals are more difficult for comedy than for a dramatic play.
"Because we got the timing down right from the start," he said.
But he admits that the humor is something that must be handled during rehearsals. "There have been some nights that we got stuck on our lines because it's been so funny," he said.
After high school Troy is interested in getting his education from one of the military academies.
"I want to go to the U.S. Naval Academy," he said. "I'm also applying to the Air Force Academy and West Point, but the Navy is my focus. I want to be an officer on a submarine."
Other cast members are Alec Leman as Tito; Gavin Furrey as the Bell-Hop; Alethea Boulet as Diana; Jessica Reinhart as Julia; and Taylor Davis as Maria.
Performances are Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. All performances are in the Mingus Union auditorium.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (60 or over), and $6 for students.
All tickets are $2 more at the door. Tickets may be purchased online at www.showtix4u or by calling (928) 649-4466. Tickets also are available from the school office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.