Thespis Lives

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Monmouth welcomes Dennis Price as the new director of Monmouth Academy Drama (MAD) Players. The play for Autumn 2006 was titled “Done to Death,” and written by Fred Carmichael. “Done to Death” is a mystery-comedy about five murder mystery authors with extremely different writing styles. These five authors are thrown together to collaborate their unique writing styles for a television show. The thing is, none of them can seem to get along, and all of them believe their writing style is the best. They gather on a set, modeled after a house on an island called Vulture’s Vault. After what seems like hours of talking and coming up with nothing workable, and absolutely nothing that even resembles collaboration, they leave on boat for the real Vulture’s Vault. There, they are required to write thirteen story-plot scripts. Not surprisingly, things take an unintended turn as the host of the television show, the butler, and the maid unexpectedly drop dead. The authors quickly try to decipher the mystery and catch the murderer, as they in turn, are murdered one by one. You notice while watching the play, that each author is murdered in a strange and unique way.

Brad Benedict, the modern young author, dies by inhaling a poisoned gas capsule set to a spring in a cutout book. Rodney Duckton, the genius of hard-hitting detectives, is pierced in the neck by a dart from a blowgun. Mildred Z. Maxwell, the personage of the surprise ending, is electrocuted by a typewriter. Lastly, Jessica and Whitney Olive, the ‘darlings of International Society,’ expire from a sip of bad poisoned wine. But this is not the last of the authors you see. In reality, they have decided to collaborate after all, and have actually written the script you have just witnessed – their deaths being a part of their ingenious plot.

MAD Players worked nonstop for almost four weeks in order for “Done to Death” to be completed for the weekend of November 10, 11, and 12. You could pretty much say that they ate, breathed and dreamt murder. I’m talking four-hour dress rehearsals, with additional (and much needed) four-hour line rehearsals.

Right now, Dennis Price is in Philadelphia working on “A Christmas Carol” for the winter season. I called him to ask him a few questions about his experiences with the MAD players and Theatre at Monmouth:

CN: What made you decide to apply for the position of director for Monmouth Academy?

DP: Because I wanted to work with high school students and wanted to work in the community where I do Theatre at Monmouth.

CN: How did you decide on “Done to Death” as the fall play?

DP: Because I’ve seen it done before. I thought it was a good ensemble piece to put together. There were a lot of different people, and a lot of different things I thought would work well.

CN: Did you enjoy directing the MAD Players?

DP: Yes, of course. It was fantastic.

CN: What is your favorite part about doing Theatre at Monmouth?

DP: There are a lot of different things, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of different people.

CN: Where did the quote ‘Thespis Lives’ come from and what does it mean?

DP: It was a thing I did in my high school theater group. We were doing a sort of dumb together thing, but people kind of dug it. It got people to work together.

CN: Do you have any funny stories from the fall production of “Done to Death?”

DP: Oh, uh… when Aaron (Dallman) kept breaking the couch. He kept forgetting it was broken, and flopping down on it. When Tyler (Vandrell) broke the wine glass.

CN: What are you looking forward to directing at Monmouth Academy in the future?

DP: I look forward to directing shows that will be fun, accommodate different people’s time commitments, and expand theater background.

I am sure that most everyone, including the audience, the actors, and Dennis Price, would agree that Monmouth Academy’s fall production was amazing, a true miracle taking into consideration the short four weeks they had to put the show together. But, just like Dennis Price, the MAD Players are already thinking of the future, and already eagerly awaiting auditions for One Acts, Monmouth Academy’s spring drama session. If you are interested in taking part in Monmouth Academy’s drama program, you should audition. Auditions for One Acts will be held the week of January 1 at Monmouth Academy, and the plays are to be performed in March – I hope to see you there.

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