Paul Blazer High School
in Ashland, KY, has a long history of terrific shows, and they're adding to the list tomorrow night with their latest production, The DelVal Divas
. Here's director Jane Modlin
to tell us more about the show:Q: Tell us about the show.Jane: The DelVal Divas
is a comedy by Barbara Pease Webber
. It's set in a cell block at the Delaware Valley Correctional Facility, a so-called 'pink-collar' prison. Four of the characters (Beth Ziegler, MBA, Rosemary Adams, JD, MBA, Stella Wild, MBA, Linda Robertson, MD, PhD.) are inmates serving time for 'genteel' crimes, such as money laundering, stock market finagling, fleecing an HMO, etc. However, since they have seemingly unlimited funds, they've used their money for two causes - getting DelVal back on track financially, and making sure their lives are pleasant and comfortable, including weekly massages, manicures, pedicures, personal trainers, and catered meals. Their cushy world gets a shake-up when an accused murderess is moved into their 'suite'. Plus, it's announced that DelVal will be closing and they will be transferred to the far-less-swank Black Rock Prison. Using their special talents and with the help of the prison guard Lucille (whom they've put through both undergrad and grad school), they attempt to set things right.
Q: Some might say that a story set in a women's prison is too mature
for high school students.Jane:
And I would be the first to agree, if it were a gritty, deep, emotion-ladened drama. But this is a fun comedy that shouldn't offend *anybody*, unless it's the idea of women in prison! I'm probably too careful about what we do. In addition to cutting questionable language, I try to avoid shows that address themes that are 'too adult', if that makes sense. I'm not talking about teenage angst, or drug abuse or alcohol, etc., or even 'Bang, Bang, You're Dead.' I just don't think that Same Time Next Year
works when done by a couple of 15-year olds. I love Equus
, but I'm not doing it in a public high school. We do run the gamut, from frothy comedies to classics - in the past few years we've done everything from The Mousetrap
and Bell, Book, and Candle
to Little Shop or Horrors
, while spoofing Tennessee Williams
in Murder in the Magnolias
. I think the bottom line with high school theatre is what will *sell*, which sounds crass, but it's the reality. It's great to be avant garde and challenge the social norms, but at the end of the day, you work for The Parents, who tend to have a different set of values than some of their children! So you do a couple of 'fun' shows, light comedies or dramas that the audience will enjoy, and then you do something that challenges the cast as well. This characters in this show are grownups, so that stretches the cast, and it's a little more complex than 'where am I going to find a prom date?', so it's fun for them as well. Q: Tell us about the actors who are in the show.Jane:
I have a great cast - I'm really pleased. It's not easy to play 30-40-something convincingly when you're 17-18, but these girls are tremendous. Here's the cast list:
Lucille - Shannon Hall
Beth - Ali Lewis
Rosemary - Jessie Reed
Stella - Martha Stephens
Linda - Amy Larsen
Sharon - Heather McDowell Shannon Hall
and Ali Lewis
are seniors - Shannon had the lead in Bell, Book & Candle
last spring and has a wonderful stage presence. Ali came to theatre last year and wowed the audience in Have a Nice Day
, a musical send-up of all those 'Up With People' tours. Jessie Reed, Amy Larsen,
and Martha Stephens
are juniors. This is Jessie's first Blazer show, although she's done theatre in the community. Amy transferred in this year from Spring Valley and brings long list of credits with her. Martha took Blazer by storm her freshman year, landing the lead in The Mousetrap
before playing Aunt Queenie in Bell, Book & Candle
. Sophomore Heather McDowell
also has a long list of Ashland-area credits, although this is her first 'official' Blazer show. Q: Paul Blazer has a great history of staging shows - something not all
high schools manage. What's the secret of your success?Jane:
Wow - the secret? I don't think there is one. Part of it is the amount of shows we do. Due to our small space (we prefer 'intimate') - we only seat 121 - with literally NO backstage area - we can realistically only put 10-12 actors comfortably onstage at a time. So my secret... is to get as many students involved, whether on stage or behind it, as much as possible.
In order to utilize more than 5 - 10 students, we do 3 - 4 mainstage shows a year, plus a children's theatre tour to the area elementary schools, plus the 'just say no to drugs' tour, plus our two major fundraisers, one for a charity and one for a scholarship. For those all-day events, we'll have between 30 and 40 different 'acts', everything from a monologue to interpretive dance to sing-a-long karoake. The mainstage shows are the big draws, though. And I'm very proud that I don't cast the same students over and over and over. For the first two shows this year, not a single student was double-cast. Most of the crew members are different, also. They want to be involved, so I want to give them a chance to shine, whether it's as the lead or the deck crew.
It also helps that I'm a full-time theatre person. I don't 'moonlight' teaching English or history or math - I teach 5 levels of theatre. And Blazer is very lucky to have administrators who recognize the importance of the arts - not just theatre, but also music, orchestra, band, choir, dance, and art. Our orchestra is outstanding, our band wins competitions throughout the area, and our choirs are amazing. There's a tradition of excellence. We have high standards! Q: Why would you recommend this show to our readers?Jane:
This is a fun comedy. No high drama, no intense fight scenes, no screaming, no door slamming (hard to effectively slam a cell door, believe it or not), in fact, nothing that's not family-friendly. Our audience ranges from elementary age to grandparents, so we try to find shows that appeal across the board. The dialogue is clever and the characters are actually believable, which can be rare - especially given the setting! - and the audience will have a good time, if for no other reason than to play 'name that prison tune' with the pre-show music!Q: Tell us when and where The DelVal Divas will be presented.
Shows are Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 20-23, 2008. at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $5.00/adults and $3.00/students and seniors. The shows are at The Millennium Center at Paul G. Blazer High School in Ashland, KY. Call (606) 327-6040 ext. 3207
for more information.