High school play takes on 21st century politics

(Photo by Alen Fetahi)

(Photo by Alen Fetahi)

Even the election of a class president is not immune from the influence of Super PACs and media pundits in the fast-paced political satire The Election, presented by the Saugerties High School senior class.

Performances will be held at the high school Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 20 at 2 and 7 p.m.

“It’s really relevant to the political scene,” said teacher John Wells, who is directing his third senior class play. “It’s something that’s not only funny, it’s a show that has a message at its core.”

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Wells says the play explores the role of money in politics.

“It’s also a forum on how the media sensationalizes elections with sound bites to basically make more money,” Wells said.

In addition to live action, the audience will see pre-taped commercials featuring the lead characters. The ads satirize those annoying Super PAC commercials that take over the airwaves every election season.

Wells, who teaches English and theater, chose this play because he wanted to do something different; something new. “Musical are done to death,” he said.

The play is certainly of the moment. It was written last May by playwright Don Zolidis. The plot revolves around middle-of-the-road high school student Mark Davenport who decides to run for student body president. It looks like a landslide, with him running against a squeaky-voiced inhaler-toting girl named Christy Martin.

Davenport and the student body are shocked when Christy receives a makeover that transforms her into a poised and polished politician who even appears in mudslinging commercials on television. She becomes the favorite.

“They don’t know what I’m going to do or not do in my campaign,” said Lisa Maher, who plays Christy Martin. “They’ll just vote for me because I’m super hot and I say I love America.”

Dakota Gray, who plays Mark Davenport, says his character initially tries to keep his campaign clean and honest. “In the end I have to resort to some political mudslinging to have a chance to win,” Gray said. “The pressure gets to you.

“It has some really funny bits, and some really humiliating parts for me,” Gray added. “I think the audience will really like it.”

Acting has always been a passion for Maher, and she jumped at the opportunity to take up Wells’ offer for this role. “I’m really happy with the show,” Maher said. “You get to see the whole class come together to put together a great show. It will be worth it in the end.”

Gray, who began acting with a role in a kindergarten play, enjoys playing Mark Davenport, calling it a great experience. “My friends told me to come out and audition and I did,” said Gray, who’s been balancing play rehearsal with track and field practice.

Chris Suppy plays a shady character named Gary McMaster who runs two supposedly non-partisan Super PACs named Forward Presley and Rise Up Presley.

McMaster has no remorse about influencing elections to make some money, Suppy said. “You’ve got to spend money to make money.

“My character has a manipulative personality,” Suppy said. “I play both sides of the card.”

Emma Gremer plays a sound-bite-obsessed political pundit. She says the role fits her perfectly.

“The character’s crazy. I’m crazy. It shows,” said Gremer, who is interested in the media and plans to study marketing and advertising at UAlbany, with a minor in theater.

Zoe Gale landed a role of a reporter. “This is the only play, and I’ve been waiting for years to be in it,” Gale said.

While Sarah Steyer doesn’t speak a single line as stage manager, she plays a crucial role.

“I have to make sure the three floor microphones pick up everything you say,” Steyer said. “I have to tell the ensemble cast when to come up.”

Another task is managing the stage crew. This role comes naturally to Steyer, who held many leadership roles in the past.

“I’m pretty much in charge of everything Mr. Wells is not in charge of,” she said.

Perhaps the greatest memory for the students will be the friendships and lasting bonds made during the play. “It’s great to have everyone together. It’s great to spend those five-minute breaks together,” Gremer said. “You talk to people who you never talked to before.”

Wells said he enjoys the opportunity to share his lifelong passion for theater with his students. “Theater’s been a part of my entire life,” he said. “I’m trying to use theater with the students, and I’m trying to give back what was given to me as a high school student.”

Tickets are $6, available at the main office at the school or at the door. Proceeds will help to upgrade the equipment in the theater, including curtains that date to the 1960s, Wells said.

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