After the DHS Players received runner-up at last year’s State 6A One-Act Competition, Dalton High School Drama Director Wes Phinney started thinking about what the DHS Players would do to follow their successful 2018 production.
“These students are amazingly talented,” said Phinney. “Over the years they’ve learned puppetry, tap dancing, operetta, you name it! They’ve performed in comedies, dramas, classic musicals like ‘Oklahoma!’ and Disney spectacles like ‘The Little Mermaid.’ So I decided to try and challenge them, to give them something that would require all of their skills and a great deal of focus and effort.”
The answer was “The Duchess Mislaid,” a 16th century Commedia, or theatrical form, featuring stock characters in masks and improvised performances based on sketches and scenarios.
“The most difficult part of Commedia is the physicality of the performance,” explained Phinney, “These are stock characters in masks, so the actor’s physicality has to go a long way in creating the character for the audience. For a young actor, physicality can be challenging, and this degree of physicality is exceptionally challenging.”
To help his students, Phinney turned to an old friend and colleague, Kevin Otos, a renowned Commedia expert and professor of theater at Elon University. Otos came to DHS for a weekend-long workshop/seminar in September and ran the students through the basics of the Commedia style of acting.
“It was a very successful learning experience for our students,” said Phinney, “and no matter what happens, I think they met the challenge and have done an exceptional job with a difficult form of theater.”
Now, one month later, all of the learning and rehearsing that Phinney’s students have been doing will be on display for judges at the Region 6A One-Act Competition on Saturday at Allatoona High School, and again for the public on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dalton High School.
Featured in “The Duchess Mislaid” are Jack Haley as the bumbling servant Arlecchino, Bethany Southerland as the conniving servant Brighella and Paige Manahan as the mute servant Pedrolino.
Their masters include Reyd Mahan as the miserly Pantalone and Sabino Herrera as the pompous Doctor Graziano, both of whom try to prevent the marriage of their offspring (Sarah Lynch as Pantalone’s daughter, Isabella, and Dylan Spaulding as Graziano’s son, Lelio). Preventing the marriage of the two young lovers is complicated by the arrival of an overly compensating Captain (Jacob Byerts) and the rumor that a wealthy missing Duchess (Morgan Hurlock) may be hiding out in the vicinity.
Complicating the plot even further are a bevy of servants (Megan Robertson, Ariana Avila, Abagail Howard and Sarah Forberger), soldiers (Deval Patel, Jeb Bethel, Joshua Grimes and Raymundo Moncayo), “Sisters” of the local “Convent” (Linda Olvera-Jones and Ansley Nguyen), the local Innkeeper (Austin Rogers) and his wife (Autumn Harless), a stuttering priest (Cole Cooper), a patron of the local “Convent” (Lee Martin) and a dead body (Jose Enriquez).
The DHS Players will present the public performance of “The Duchess Mislaid” on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Dalton High theater. Tickets are $5 and will be available at the door.