For over 60 years, directors and upperclassmen have passed Staples Players’ traditions and lore on to underclassmen.
After all, they — including directors David Roth and Kerry Long — were once freshmen and sophomores too.
This year, COVID did more than cancel mainstage, Black Box studio and One-Act performances. The pandemic also jeopardized those cultural connections.
The nationally renowned troupe adapted to the loss of live theater, with a series of radio shows. They’ve produced 7 — musicals, comedies, thrillers — to great acclaim.
Most of the roles went, naturally, to juniors and seniors. Because the casts were smaller than major shows, underclassmen missed the chance to get a foot on Players’ impressive ladder to the stars.
Roth and Long also missed something: the chance to get to know a new generation of students. For the past year, Roth — who teaches theater at the high school — says that all he sees in class are “kids with masks, or in little boxes on my laptop.”
Providentially, as the directors discussed doing a radio show for 9th and 10th graders only, they found the perfect vehicle.
Roth and Long run a 6,000-member Facebook group for theater educator worldwide. A woman from Australia posted a play she’d written: “The Marvelous Mellow Melodrama of the Marriage of the Mislaid Minor.”
“It’s one of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read,” Roth says. “No one’s ever heard of it. But it’s a fantastic send-up of over-the-top dramas.”
It airs this Friday (March 26, 7 p.m.). Audiences worldwide — including the playwright in Australia — can hear it on wwptfm.org.
Students sent audition tapes. The cast of 24 — the largest by far for a Staples radio show — jumped quickly into the project. They’ve been aided by Jasper Burke, a senior who is a superb dialect coach, teaching every accent from upper-class British to Irish to Cockney.
The directors added 10 more actors. They’ll produce classic radio commercials.
Roth and Long have gotten to know the underclassmen well. Five assistant directors — all seniors — pass along Players’ traditions and rituals, just as they would during a mainstage.
As with other Players radio shows, all actors will be fully costumed.
You won’t see those costumes, when you click on wwptfm.org this Friday. But for the next 3 years, you’ll see those freshman and sophomore actors grow on the Staples stage.
And then they’ll pass all they’ve learned as Players on to the generation that follows.