November 21, 2002

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YSHS students Eve GunderKline, left, Hallie Cranos, Glenn Reed and Martin Bakari during a recent rehearsal for the high school’s fall play, ‘Inspecting Carol,’ which opens this weekend at the Antioch Theater.

The Comedy 'Inspecting Carol'—
YSHS play opens this weekend

When Marcia Nowik came to town in 1992 to direct the Yellow Springs High School spring musical Pippin, the students knew they had a good thing. The school asked her back the following spring, and 10 years later, students say the confidence she has inspired in them is giving this year’s thespians loads of comedic energy for their fall play, Inspecting Carol, opening tonight (Thursday) at the Antioch Theater.

Amid the commotion of actors, techies and loud drilling on the production set three nights before the curtain goes up, Nowik was the picture of calm. A cast member approached with her concern of a missing musical part. An intentionally broken stage wasn’t falling quite the way it should. A lighting tech called down from the ceiling to ask about the proper direction of the beam.

“Oh yeah, things will come together,” stage manager Jacque Laurens, a senior, said without concern. “They always do.”

During rehearsal, Zora, the Lithuanian producer played by Erin Silvert-Noftle, ranted and raved about funding for her amateur theater troupe’s production of A Christmas Carol. The antics of the British couple, played by Rose Blakelock and Glen Reed, garnered hearty laughter from the crew and several alumni who have returned to watch. In the end a botched attempt to win the favor of a representative from the National Endowment for the Arts proved to be a commentary on the perils of trying too hard to please others.

“The play is about funding and recognition and how far people are willing to go for approval,” Nowik said.

Planting the seed for an idea and shaping the play around that theme is something Nowik said she enjoys about theater.

She wasn’t always a director, though. She began her performance career as a ballet dancer in high school, learning through movement.

“School was painful for me because I’m an extremely kinetic person, and I learn best by moving around and becoming a character or a historical figure,” she said.

But Nowik said she found the physical demands of dancing limited both the parameters of her talents and interests and the variety of people she had a chance to meet. That’s when she discovered theater.

Putting on a show requires a diverse group with diverse talents to come together for a common creative purpose. Unlike some other activities, the theater is a place where anyone can rely on his or her individual strengths to succeed, Nowik said. And she didn’t care whether she was acting or directing as long as she was involved in theater.

While Nowik was directing Youth theater at the Dayton Playhouse in the early 1990s, she came to Yellow Springs to see the high school perform Star Mites and The Good Doctor.

“After seeing one or two shows here I knew I really wanted to get my hands on this group of students to do theater,” she said. “I’ve been having too much fun, and now I can’t go away from it.”

Nowik said directing is a way for her to pass onto younger people ways to learn physically.

“Directing is natural for me because I love being able to read something on the page and put the words into physical form with lights, body forms, shapes and colors,” she said.

And she says she is still learning important lessons about the process.

While coordinating the musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Nowik found herself becoming fixated on every detail. She said it was wonderful having so many community members involved, but that she lost sight of the unification process that allows a show to breathe and be the sum of its talented parts.

“As a director I have this vision and I get so stressed about incorporating all the ideas just so, that I would forget that it is going well and that it is exactly what I want,” she said. “If we allow the show to take shape on its own and let the energy of each body mesh with the others,” she said with a pause, “we’ve got magic!”

To further the theater program at Yellow Springs High School, Nowik organized the students to write and produce their own one-act plays and to join the International Honor Society of Thespians. The Thespian Society sponsors workshops, voice classes and drama competitions with other schools. Connecting with other theater groups allows students to see how others do things differently, she said.

“In the theater we have a chance to work with a lot of people we wouldn’t normally socialize with,” Silvert-Noftle, an eighth grader, said as she joked around with a senior, a junior and two sophomores who were also in the play.

Being stereotypical dramatists, the students were outspoken about what they like and what they don’t like. And they like Marcia Nowik.

“She’s like a mom and mentor to the entire cast and crew, always telling us to get sleep and take our vitamins,” Laurens said.

“There’s a level of maturity and trust because we are treated like adults,” technical director Lydia Gerthoffer said. “Working with Marcia in the theater is the best experience I’ve ever had in high school.”

The cast includes Martin Bakari, Rose Blakelock, Charlie Cromer, Hallie Cranos, Monica Erickson, Eve GunderKline, John Hempfling, Patrick Holihan, James Hyde, Paia LaPalombara, Kevin Malarkey, Glenn Reed, Mori Rothman, Aaron Zaremsky and Matthew Zaremsky.

Inspecting Carol will be performed Thursday–Saturday, Nov. 21–23, and Friday–Saturday, Nov. 29–30, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24, and Saturday–Sunday, Nov. 30–Dec. 1, at 2 p.m.

—Lauren Heaton