By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Somewhere in the Arizona desert are 19 student actors plus a host of technical help performing a play within a play. At least that's what they want you to believe.
And the Gilford High School's performance was so believable it earned them a first place finish during the state theater championship at Kingswood High School over the April 1 weekend.
"It's a story about two brothers on the set of a Bible epic movie that's set in the Arizona desert in the 1930s," said cast member Jack Harding, who offered a Readers Digest version of "Epic Proportions." And the other cast members have to deal with their shenanigans.
This is the third straight year the Gilford High School theater group has gone one to the New England Showcase. In 2014 they performed "Almost, Maine" and last year they performed Eurydice.
"Gilford is going through a renaissance in theater," said senior Sophia Prevost.
Harding played "Jack," who is the assistant director of the movie in the play. He said he found his character wasn't all that far away from some of his real personality traits, like getting easily frustrated at the beginning of a project.
The real assistant director of the play was Christian Ayer, who said "Jack" moves the plot forward, until he dies in the burning bush scene.
Kayla Zaralla plays the female lead, who is the "assistant director of the no extras" until she takes over after Jack's demise. She also falls in love with each of the two brothers, creating a love triangle that continues throughout the play.
She said that her character is "ditzy and strong" at the same time and her struggle was to balance the two personalities.
Other cast members, like Kiai Langathianos, who plays a French maid, and Prevost, who is the queen's attendant, said they played minor characters but because of the way the play is written, it is the minor characters who provide the glue for the show and who get most of the laughs.
"You've got to take the role you have and go ballistic with it," said Prevost.
Staging a play is also about sound and lighting, and that's where self-described "technical sound guy" Tristan Veroff enters. He said he and the other technical people spent the early rehearsal times listening to sound tracks of epic films and of films set in the 1930s. From those, they compiled their own sound track for the play.
Veroff is the technical trouble shooter.
"I problem-solve," he said, which is one of his biggest takeaways from theater for his personal life.
Each student said theater teaches life skills that can be used in any profession. For Ayer, it is the value of making a commitment. A senior, he said he plans on continuing his education in theater and play writing.
Zarella, a junior, wants to be an attorney and said being in theater program since fifth grade has helped her with her public speaking skills, while Langathianos, who is a sophomore, said says it's teamwork. Sshe thinks she may go on to study social work or health.
Each said that knowing the upcoming showcase in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, is the final performance of Epic Proportions, is what will lead to the energy they will put into it. Like the competition earlier this month at Kingswood Regional, everyone will "put something into it that we've never done before."
All of them said the other schools throughout the competitions presented wonderful shows and it's one of the best part of the showcases is that not only do they get to perform, they get to watch other, equally gifted actors perform their shows.
The theater will be with all of them as they go through summer as well. All said the play they most want to see is the hit show "Hamilton," which is is playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York's theater district. Most, however, will not be going but nearly all of them said they have plans to see "Wicked" in Boston.
"Epic Proportions" is a play written in 1986 by Larry Coen and David Crane.
Hamming it up with some members of the cast and crew of the Gilford Drama Club who, for the third year in a row, will be representing New Hampshire in the New England Drama Festival. Left to right are Sophia Prevost, Kaia Langathianos, Christian Ayer, Jack Harding, Tristan Veroff and Kayla Zarella. (Laconia Daily Sun Photo – Gail Ober)