Tag Archives: Staples Black Box Theater

“Lord Of The Flies”: Powerful Drama Set For Staples Stage

Staples High School’s Black Box Theater is an intimate space.

With a movable stage and seating, it’s been the setting for memorable shows like “Twelve Angry Men,” “The Laramie Project” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Players’ next Black Box production — “Lord of the Flies” — is equally powerful and thought-provoking.

It may also be the most intriguing production there yet.

Directors David Roth and Kerry Long have cast males and females in the roles of 11- and 12-year-old boys. Marooned on an island and struggling to govern themselves, the tension between morality and individuality — and groupthink and immorality — is palpable from the opening scene.

Part of the “Lord of the Flies” cast. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Each performance features a different cast of actors. Some are mixed genders; one is all male, one all female.

Each show will look a bit different. But all force audiences to explore universal ideas like what it means to be human, and the desire for power.

Written in 1954, the story is “fresh, modern, and very relevant to our world today,” Roth says.

Though “Lord of the Flies” is best known as a novel (and film), Roth and Long found a YouTube video of a Sydney theatrical production. Both had read the book as Staples students.

Watching the video, they were reminded again of its power — and attracted to the Australians’ mixed-gender cast.

They relished the challenge of bringing the show — with its ever-shifting dynamics, both thematically and because of the several different casts — to the Black Box stage.

Cameron Mann (Jack) and Quinn Mulvey (Ralph). (Photo/Kerry Long)

Like the directors, some Players have read “Lord of the Flies” in school. Some are reading it right now. All understand its messages about human nature, and are growing as actors as they learn how their characters change — some for better, some worse — on the island, as democracy crumbles.

That island will look spare. The set is abstract, with a sandbox and just 3 props: a pig’s head, Piggy’s glasses, and the iconic conch.

There is, however, plenty of movement. Fight choreographer Chris Smalley — who has worked with Players for over a dozen years — ensures that the intense scenes are performed both authentically and safely.

It’s a different show for Staples, certainly. The theme and emotions are raw. Plus, Long notes, “the kids get spears, and get to act savagely.”

“Lord of the Flies” is not “Mamma Mia!,” “Grease” or “The Music Man” — some of the shows that Players perform on the main stage.

But the Staples troupe is known for their versatility and professionalism. This is the perfect vehicle for them.

And the Black Box Theater is the perfect place to perform it.

(“Lord of the Flies will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 25, 26 and 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 27 at 3 p.m., and Sunday, May 28 at 1 p.m. Click here for tickets and cast lists. The show is recommended for audiences 12 and older.)





Brighton Beach Memoirs, Brooklyn Memories

Max Samuels’ grandfather grew up in Brooklyn.  The Staples senior heard his stories of that place and time.  Until a couple of weeks ago, though, he’d never really heard them.

But Max is president of Staples Players, so to prepare for their upcoming Black Box production — “Brighton Beach Memoirs” — he invited his grandfather to talk to the cast.

It was a perfect match.  Lou Berlin — now 83 — spent an afternoon describing his youth.  The teenage actors of 2011 now understood much more vividly what it meant to come of age in the 1930s.

Lou talked about his life:  playing stickball and Johnny on the pony in the streets.  Going home from school for lunch.  Watching movies — a newsreel, cartoon and feature — all for a nickel.

When he was finished, the Staples students asked questions.  What was his relationship with his parents and sister?  How did he have fun?  Where did he meet his wife?

The answers helped each actor understand his or her character better.  Including the one who plays the “Brighton Beach” father:  Max Samuels.

Max Samuels and Eva Hendricks get into their "Brighton Beach" roles. (Photo by Kerry Long)

“My grandfather’s father — my great-grandfather — worked a lot,” Max says.  “He had a few jobs, including taxi driver.  Jack does that job too.

“I knew my character worked very hard.  But I didn’t realize that meant he was never home — and when he was, he was exhausted.”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” has many references to money.  Max’s grandfather explained the importance of every penny during the Depression.  Now, Max says, the cast truly understands what their lines mean.

Max’s grandfather had as much fun that afternoon as the young actors.  This week, they put the final touches on the show.  It opens Friday night (March 4, 7:30 p.m.).

“It’ll be great,” Max promises.  “It’s a very funny show, but at the same time very serious.  On the one hand you’ve got Eugene (Ryan Shea) going through puberty, sharing his memories with the audience.  On the other hand it’s the Great Depression.  The family has to take Jack’s wife’s sister and her 2 daughters in — and feed them.  It was very, very hard.”

The set is “very cool,” Max says.  “It’s actually a house — you can see the upstairs and downstairs.”  The Black Box Theater at Staples is “very intimate,” he adds — “just like Brighton Beach in 1937.”

And just like the bond between Max Samuels and his grandfather — plus, now, the full “Brighton Beach Memoirs” cast.

(In keeping with the “family” theme, Max’s sister Rachel is double-cast as Nora — Jack’s niece.  “Brighton Beach Memoirs” will be performed March 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m.  Click here for tickets and more information.)

The cast (clockwise from bottom): Ryan Shea, Max Samuels, Eva Hendricks, Matt Van Gessel, Sofia Ribolla, Alison Manning, Emily Ressler. (Photo by Kerry Long)