DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — After the Marble Falls High School theater arts’ one-act play wrapped up last year without advancing out of a tough district competition, the students and teacher took a note from a common sports practice: more touches on the ball.
“One of the judges told us that our one-act play was the best she’s ever seen that piece done,” said Jonathan Clark, the Marble Falls High School theater arts teacher. “But still, we didn’t advance. We all felt really good about the performance, but we are in a really, really tough (theater arts) district.”
During a conversation with one of the high school coaches, Clark had kind of an epiphany. She told Clark that, as in theater arts, the high school’s athletic teams face tough competition from district squads in the Leander area. One of the things the Leander-area athletes do during the summer is participate in select teams.
“It’s all about getting more touches on the ball, she told me. That’s why those teams are so good,” Clark said.
The concept resonated with Clark. If getting more touches on the ball helps athletes, then getting more time on stage would definitely benefit high school actors, he decided.
So, during the last week of school in May, Clark pitched the idea of producing a summer play to his students. Despite having to give up a lot of their summer for rehearsals and the performance, many agreed.
“They really had to work hard because we’re basically pushing this all into about five weeks of rehearsal,” Clark said while watching his students go through the first act of “Over the River and Through the Woods. “They’re not doing this for me. They’re not doing this because it’s mandatory. They’re doing it so they can get better.”
The play, set in a Hoboken, N.J., home tells the story of Nick, a career-oriented 29-year-old and his maternal and paternal grandparents. Nick has landed a great job opportunity, but it’s across the country. His grandparents aren’t thrilled at the idea of Nick, who is their only living relative, heading so far way, so they hatch a plan, involving a young lady, to keep him in Hoboken.
“But, of course, not everything goes as planned,” Clark said. “But it’s a well-written and heartfelt play.”
Though it’s a small cast, it presents its own challenges.
“I have four teenagers playing grandparents,” Clark said with a grin. “That’s challenging. We’ve even put things in their shoes to make them walk, well, a bit older.”
They also use makeup to pull off the aging effect, but it’s their movements and vocal tones that really pull off the transformations.
The eight students spend up to five hours, two to three times a week rehearsing. This type of dedication shows on the stage even though they’re still more than a week from opening night at The Uptown Theatre in Marble Falls. But it’s the long-term impact that could make a big difference when the young thespians take the stage during the school year and for their one-act play. Clark knows the theater district just got tougher this year (as did the athletic counterpart) with the addition of Georgetown High School and Georgetown Eastview High School. And the Marble Falls student still have to contend with the majority of the Leander ISD schools as well as Dripping Springs High School, which advanced to the state one-act play competition in 2014 and came away highly ranked.
“Getting to state takes a lot of hard work and time. Time on stage,” Clark said. “It’s going to take us time to get us there, but this is all part of the plan.”
The production of “Over the River and Through the Woods” is July 31 and Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. The shows are at The Uptown Theatre, 218 Main St. Tickets are $7 with proceeds benefitting the high school’s theater arts department.