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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Drama department’s performance of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ rescheduled due to setbacks

By Brian Ly | Staff Writer

Yilin Yao | Tongva Times
SHOW GOES ON  Student actors rehearse a scene from the drama department’s upcoming production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” on Nov. 15. The play will open in the Black Box Theater on Dec. 3.

The Gabrielino High School drama department will hold its first performance of the year in the newly built Murphy Blackbox Theater in room E170. The cast of 13 students, directed by drama teacher JC Gafford, will perform Joseph Kesselring’s play, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, Dec. 3-5.
Originally planned for Nov. 12-14, tickets already purchased before the play’s postponement announcement will still be valid for entry in December.
“This is our first time in this new theater,” said Gafford. “But any issues we face will eventually be overcome.”
The play is centered around Mortimer Brewster, who will be played by senior Michael Rojas, and his two murderous aunts, Martha and Abby Brewster, who will be played by juniors Giselle Hernandez and Kayla Kruz respectively. Throughout the story, Mortimer deals with his murderous family and the local Brooklyn police, keeping his family out of trouble while trying to convince his aunts to stop poisoning more lonely men.
In contrast with last year’s virtual play, the dark comedy focused on the maniacal, homicidal family will be Gabrielino’s first in-person performance since the coronavirus quarantine.
“[The] quarantine has hit the arts really hard,” stated Gafford. “It’s a big challenge with masks since it really muffles sound during rehearsals.”
Rehearsals began in early October afterschool after students finished auditions and were given their roles to perform.
“It’s a lot more different in-person than online,” stated Rojas. “There’s something about giving your lines to someone rather than speaking to a wall or practicing on your own. It feels more emotional and comedic.”
During the audition process, students filled a form detailing their schedule along with the role they wanted to play. Those who auditioned for roles were first asked to read through a monologue unrelated to the play to gauge their ability, then they would be given a part of the actual character’s scene to reenact.
To Gafford, loud, clear speaking voices, steady speech patterns, reliability and responsiveness to notes and feedback were generally key for auditioning students.
“90 percent of directing is casting because you can’t make a cake without the right ingredients,” said Gafford. “It’s a big commitment, it’s a big deal, and I needed people who were really dedicated and into it.”
In preparation for the play, Gafford reached out to Del Mar High School to collaborate with Gabrielino. As a result, one Del Mar student is in the play’s cast.
Gafford stated, “We’ve never collaborated with another school for a performance. A lot of the things done, or never done before on the main stage will be a first for this new theater.”
The new stage set is the first to be built in the new theater by the stage crew led by Gafford and aided by woodshop teacher Matthew Gilmour.
“It wasn’t necessarily our job or role,” stated Gilmour. “But we’re always happy to help Gafford [and other teachers] overcome issues. We’re proud to be able to help provide solutions.”
The Murphy Blackbox Theater is dedicated to Gabrielino’s second principal, Dr. Gene Murphy, who passed away in 2007.
The majority of the cast are new to the elective, with two students having previous experience with drama. However, the “Arsenic and Old Lace” play will be the entire cast’s first time rehearsing in the Murphy Blackbox Theater.
“Watching these people who have never done theatre finally do it, to see the audience clap after their performance,” said Gafford. “That’s really the most rewarding part despite the setbacks, seeing my students shine.”

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Drama department’s performance of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ rescheduled due to setbacks