Fresh Faces: Actors on the Rise

By Jackson Cropper

Luke Caspersen and Justin Chavez displaying their show-stealing chemistry

Every year, talented thespians in the freshman class suit up in specialized costumes and memorize long expressive lines in order to put on their own one-act play, and this year was no different. This time around that play was Virgil’s Wedding. Filled with an abundance of colorful characters, Virgil’s Wedding acted as a perfect way for the freshman to showcase their newfound character acting that is taught in their Intro to Acting class.

The production is a screwball romantic comedy that revolves around the wedding ceremony of the free-spirited Margaret Hooper and the problematic hick Virgil Sludge as they approach wacky complications regarding love and family. Officially performed on February 7th as the first freshman production in the drama program’s new Black Box, Virgil’s Wedding played out as thirty hilarious minutes of hillbilly miscommunications and ample amounts of southwestern charm, and when it was over the production was followed by tremendous praise from its audience. Leaving the production you could hear scattered voices of audience members saying things like “that was way better than my freshman play” and “that was quite possibly the best high school production I’ve ever seen!”

While the costuming, props, and lighting were good in their own regard, the obvious thing to praise is the work from the actors. The freshmans’ drama teacher, Mrs. Jeanie Boudiette has been proud of how much they learned over the course of this production.

“They have learned a lot about physical and vocal character work,” Boudiette explained. “They’ve also learned about being directed and blocked in a round theatre. Normally we’re on a proscenium stage, but because we have this new Black Box space, we can utilize directing them in an arena setting. It’s hard to act in because you always know that your back is to someone in the audience. To be a freshman and already have that learning experience is huge.”

Emily Weins sits patiently as one of the first characters to join the wedding congregation

There are plenty of great young actors and actresses to come out of this production who seem to have grown accustomed to their new Black Box space very quickly, and many of them stand out in their own unique ways. One example of this would be Olivia Lopez as the persistent wedding coordinator Ms. Delanie. Dominating the stage in a stern manner, Lopez acts as a voice of reason, constantly reminding us just how ridiculous every new absurd complication is.

Her attention to detail and desire for perfection causes her to clash some with her coordinating assistant Barbie, played by the impressive Emily Hall.

Another example of great onstage chemistry would be between Luke Caspersen and Justin Chavez who played the husband-to-be Virgil and the honorary best man Ellard. Coming off as charming as they can be, both Caspersen and Chavez’s portrayal of delightful dimwits were simply hilarious. If you had never seen these two interact before this play, their on-stage bond would convince you that they were best of friends.

“I’m definitely going to continue acting after this,” Caspersen mentioned. “I loved the experience of acting with such great people. I can’t exactly see the road ahead, but I think it looks pretty bright.”

One of the most obvious cast members who has seemed to of mastered working in the Black Box is lead actress, Autumn Villanueva, who plays Margaret in the play. As expressive as can be, it’s obvious that Villanueva has been performing for a long time. Participating in ballet recitals since the age of four and performing in the Wizard of Oz in 2017, Villanueva has practically spent half of her life on stage. In Virgil’s Wedding, her mastered southern accent and wide-eyed facial expressions practically dominate the stage.

“I would love to do acting and theatre professionally when I’m older,” Villanueva beamed. “That’s the dream! I love to tell people stories. I mean that’s what theatre is: telling truths of life in different scenarios. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

Autumn Villanueva displaying her performance-defining facial expressions

Even with the amount of sheer starpower in the lead roles, there are plenty of supporting characters that left a large impact of their own on the audience. Peter Chin’s Mr. Wright (who Villanueva mistakes for her long awaited “Mr. Right”) was one of the few average personalities in the play. His mere existence among the hillbilly congregation provided plenty of laughs, and ironically was one of the most memorable roles in the production. Another good example of a small character that shined bright would be Abby Short’s Reverend. Booming like a radicle televangelist on Sunday nights, Short’s delivery during the wedding ceremony was pure gold.

Overall, Boudiette is very impressed by this year’s group of students. One of her favorite things is when her students begin to break out of their shells and start embracing their characters, and it’s obvious that these students did just that for Virgil’s Wedding.

“Every year these kids are going to do better and better,” Boudiette commented. “They are already good now and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do.”

Make sure to keep an eye out for these up-and-coming actors in future Jenks drama productions!

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