In past SCDS productions senior Daniel Hernried has played both a young, egotistical, charismatic Spanish painter and an over-sensitive, intelligent artist.
This year, Hernried is walking on familiar ground as he will be Jean-François Millet, an impoverished but gifted French artist.
Millet, as well as other iconic characters, will come alive on Friday and Saturday, April 14-15, at 7 p.m., in the drama department’s production of “Is He Dead?”
“Is He Dead?” is a hair-raising, fourth-wall-breaking, edge-of-your-seat slapstick comedy that was written by Mark Twain in 1898 yet not published until 2003.
The play tells the story of a driven but unsuccessful painter, Millet, and the three companions who fake his death in order to make millions.
Though the plot sounds inviting, the script can become quite confusing.
Senior Austin Talamantes, who has acted in plays since middle school, said this script is particularly difficult to memorize.
“The scenes flow together, and there are a lot of similar scenes,” Talamantes said.
“The pace is something that is hard to keep up with at times,” Hernried said, “especially when it’s low energy.”
“The hardest (things) are the actions and keeping the pace up,” Hernried said. “It’s a farce with slapstick humor, so there are a lot of actions. Memorizing when you have to do those actions and how you’re going to do them without blocking, is important.”
The fluidity of the scenes isn’t the only difficult part. Each character also has a specific accent to replicate.
Senior Maryjane Garcia (Marie Leroux) finds her French accent challenging.
“I just can’t do the French ‘r’ for the life of me,” Garcia said.
But sophomore Luca Procida (Phelim O’Shaughnessy) said that the hardest part is the ensemble work.
“There’s a lot of talking over each other, especially with the four friends – Millet, Chicago (played by senior Jaelan Trapp), Dutchy (played by Talamantes), and O’Shaughnessy,” Procida said.
Procida, whose character has an Irish accent, began working on his accent the day he got his part by watching Youtube videos and movies with Irish actors.
But Talamantes has an advantage because last year he performed in “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” in which he played Albert Einstein and had to say his lines with a German accent. Thus he can use the same accent this year.
Director of theatre Brian Frishman has faced more problems this year with set pieces than with acting.
“(I) can’t leave stuff in the MP room because things disappear and get broken,” Frishman said. “For example, someone kicked in one of the doors, which we have to replace.”
With all of these problems either fixed or in the process of being fixed, some seniors have begun to feel melancholy.
Seniors Trapp, Avi Bhullar, Talamantes, Garcia and Hernried have all played prominent roles in the drama department throughout their high-school careers.
However, Hernried said he hopes this bittersweet feeling will turn into positive energy while performing.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years, so I want to bring the most and give it all I got in this last show,” Hernried said.
Talamantes disagreed and said that the fact that they will never be in another Country Day play won’t change anything.
“The play’s energy will probably be the same, to be honest,” Talamantes said. “We’re all tired but are trying to give our last energy.”
What is unanimous are the positive reflections.
“I’ll miss the drama department a lot, as drama has been some of my most frustrating and fun times while in high school,” Talamantes said. “We all bonded a lot.”
“I don’t want to say anything cliche,” Hernried said. “But it’s going to be pretty hard not being around the people for two-and-a-half hours every day.”
“Everyone has their different personality in rehearsal,” he added. “And it’s great to be performing with them because they are more free and authentic.
“At drama, people express themselves differently than how they do at school. They have higher energy and are more fun to be around, which is going to be something I miss.”
—By Jackson Margolis