Eastern Hancock theater group gets creative with comedy
CHARLOTTESVILLE – This is a scene from the “Crumpled Classics” version of “Phantom of the Opera”. Madame Pompadour, Giselle and Marie are on stage. The lights go out and the actors scream. A thud and lights wake up.
“Mrs!” Giselle shouts, looking around the stage. “Marie has disappeared!”
Except that “Marie” has not disappeared. In her haste to get off the stage during the blackout, she ran left and straight into an office which hit her flat. As the lights come on, we see her – laughing – as she quickly tries to crawl out of public view.
Madame Pompadour laughs. Giselle laughs. The director laughs. This reporter laughs. Everyone watching has absolutely lost it.
“We keep it!” shouts director Corey Yeaman between gasps. The next 10 minutes are spent perfecting the track, which could have been taken straight from “The Carol Burnett Show” or SNL: the moment the lights come back on; the looks on the faces of actors Katie Brown (Madame Pompadour) and Lexi Ray (Giselle) as they realize that Payton Harliss (Marie) is still on stage; the strategic pause before announcing Marie’s disappearance; Marie’s dizzy and slow recovery after meeting the office. It is all the gold of comedy.
As humorous as the lights that rise on Harliss’ crumpled body, the parodies in “Crumpled Classics,” presented by the Eastern Hancock Theater Department at 7 pm on April 29, 30 and May 1. In the play, the English teacher is ill, as the students resume the annual “Classics at the Parade” presentation, playing famous stories from their literature class. However, they decide to update the stories in this collection of plays: Romeo and Juliet taking place at a fast food restaurant, Frankie Stein trying to put together the perfect prom date, and lazy teenager Artie surprising his mother. unimpressed with a sword he drew from a stone.
It’s contemporary comedic entertainment and a perfect vehicle for Corey Yeaman’s inaugural production as Eastern Hancock’s theater director.
Hired in fall 2020, Yeaman is the fourth theater director in four years.
A teacher at Warren Central by day and passionate about theater by night, he brings to this position a wealth of performance and directing experience. His acting credits include high school musicals, college community theater, and performances with the Buck Creek Players, CrazyLake Acting Company, Footlite Musicals, and the Ricks-Weil Theater Company. Yeaman had directed or attended productions directed with CrazyLake and KidsPlay Children’s Theater before coming to Eastern Hancock.
Yeaman will first admit that his tenure got off to a slow start thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But he spent the first semester building interest with regular theater club meetings and workshops that covered character building, improvisation, voice, and body language.
“In school theater, you usually just put on shows and give ratings (on performances),” Yeaman said. “I wanted to give them more practice on the skills that help them tremendously.”
When the second semester arrived, Yeaman held auditions for “Crumpled Classics”. Not knowing how many kids would try, he went into production with plans for double and triple cast parts. But when 25 auditioners showed up, Yeaman revised his cast to make room for all.
“I wanted to make a good bunch of kids,” he said, “so with the experience they’ve had, they’ll come back and do more.”
Rehearsing twice a week, Yeaman’s biggest challenge was to promote a theater culture in Eastern Hancock with children engaged in theater.
“I want to create a total theatrical experience where we don’t just do shows, but we provide theater education and practical skills used in shows,” Yeaman said.
These skills include volume, body language, character development, and technical skills with set construction, sound and lighting.
The occasional struggles made it worth it for Yeaman.
“The nicest part,” said Yeaman, “is seeing the talent that is here. The children all get along and treat each other as equals. They take notes and fix things that need to be fixed. They start to try things out of their comfort zone.
Looks like the lessons are sinking. Sophomore Mia Griesmeyer praises her new manager.
“It’s so much fun working with him,” Griesmeyer said. “He helps us so that we don’t just make our own characters, but play with other characters as well.”
With his many relationships with the theater, Yeaman was able to call on his theater associations for help with the lights from Ted Jacobs, auditorium manager at Warren Central, and KidsPlay for help with the sound and some plays. Add in co-directing help from Andy Sparks, the costumes, props, and publicity are all expertly covered.
Yeaman has the support of the administration as well as the group director and music director. He is already looking forward to future productions.
“My goal is to create a unified performing arts department,” said Yeaman, “that will inspire people to come to shows and make things fun for kids while they learn.”
If you are going to
Eastern Hancock High School presents “Crumpled Classics” at 7 p.m. on April 29 and 30 and May 1 at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium at 10320 E. County Road 250 N. All tickets are $ 7 available at the door.