MAHOMET — Mahomet-Seymour High School drama club students are really going somewhere with “No Place Like Nowhere.”
The fall play kicks off its public performances tonight, and the comedy about a small town out West that collides with big city people and problems will be performed on stage at the high school a total of three times this weekend.
MSHS senior Lizzie Stremming plays “Gerry Mander,” a congresswoman, and she said, “It has some very funny moments between like duos of each character.”
The longtime drama club member got started partly because her brother was in drama. But performing and being part of a team of actors and actresses pulled her into the craft.
“You just meet so many wonderful people, and you make so many friendships,” Stremming said. “I always have loved art from a young age, and I’m also the art crew chair. I help paint the sets, and that’s something that I just always have enjoyed. So I get to share that love with everyone.”
When that curtain opens, there’s no doubt that nerves are a factor in this art, though.
“I get nervous every single time,” Stremming said. “When you walk on stage, though, you’re like a whole new person and it’s just so real.”
Alexis Young, a junior, has a smaller ensemble role on stage but said her main job in “No Place Like Nowhere” is as student director.
“We get to take notes, give them feedback on how to make this funnier or how to deliver a line better, and then we also get to help (with) the scenes a little bit,” Young explained of her director role. “So it’s basically just like opening us up to a different side of theater.”
She also will be on stage, playing one of the paparazzi as part of the play.
“It gives you a new sense of making sure you actually know your lines and you actually are more focused,” Young said of having roles both on and off stage. “When I’m giving notes, then I like people listening, so it makes me want to listen more.”
Taking the stage in a chauffeur role, MSHS senior Malcolm Mills has been part of the drama club since his freshman year.
“I’ve just always been in love with the stage,” Mills said. “I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I’ve always loved being on stage, being the center of attention. The drama club is perfect for that.”
He offered some insight into how the young actors and actresses remember their lines even under the hot spotlights and large audience.
“Really just practicing a lot — practice makes perfect,” Mills said. “Making sure you practice a lot and making sure you’re well-versed and keep (the lines) memorized.”
MSHS sophomore Miranda Morrissette plays movie star “Lola Lollobrigida” in the production and comes by her love of the arts naturally.
“My parents both have jobs in the arts, and so I just kind of entered into it at a young age and just kind of grew up with it,” Morrissette said. “It’s always been something that’s been a big part of my life.”
As is natural for most performers, she does get nervous on stage, but Morrissette has ways to alleviate those jitters and maintain her composure in front of so many people.
“It’s a lot easier up on the stage ’cause we have the lights and it’s very bright so I can kind of pretend like they’re not there, like we do during the dress rehearsals,” she said. “And I just have to think of it as more of a rehearsal than a performance.”
Playing “Anita Car” in the production is junior Lydia Schavle.
“I’m a waitress at the Lonesome Dog Cafe,” she said. “I have a twin sister in the play, and she owns (the cafe), and I’m kind of this hippie kind of person and I’m not smart at all. Really none (of the characters) are.”
Prepping to play her character takes some time, she noted.
“We do warmups, and that sets me in the right mindset,” Schavle said. “And I totally just relax my whole body. I’m very fast speaking, and I kind of run around and stuff, so it’s tricky but I kind of relax my body and I’m able to just ease into it.”
Emma Beddow, an MSHS junior, plays “Miss Chase,” an FBI agent from Washington, D.C., who partners with “Mr. Hunt.”
“We come into Nowhere and stir up some stuff,” she said of her character’s role.
She enjoys the camaraderie of drama club and prepping for the fall play.
“It’s really like a family. We all kind of bond together and we’re all friends,” Beddow said. “When I first got the cast list, I was so excited because everyone’s my friend and rehearsing doesn’t even feel like rehearsal. Sometimes it’s four hours long, and it’s so fun.
“I look forward to this every day,” she added just before dress rehearsal Tuesday night. “This is what I do school for — this is it. It’s really something that I enjoy.”
Junior Kyle Widener not only plays “Mr. Hunt,” partnered in the play with Beddow as “Miss Chase,” but also is the art crew co-chair for the production.
“It’s hard (to balance both tasks) but at the same time, most of the art crew’s work is done on the Saturday workdays where we come in and we paint the set, so it’s fun to have two aspects of drama: one where you’re a crew chair and one where also you get to act in the show and have fun.”
Widener likes the character he plays — or at least likes portraying the not-the-brightest-bulb-in-the-bunch Hunt.
“He has a lot of fun because he’s not the smart one of the duo, so it’s fun to play that character who’s dumbed down and gets to have a lot of fun throughout the show,” he said.
Zoe Hovde, an MSHS senior, also has dual roles in the production. She plays Paparazzi No. 5 on stage and, in addition, is the costume crew co-chair. She said there’s a wide variety of clothing needed for this play, and that fits into why she joined the effort.
“I just started doing costume just as a way to be creative,” Hovde said. “I always had a love for fashion, so I definitely love being surrounded by clothes. That’s the reason I joined it.
“I also make a lot of friends through the experience, and we all get to be really creative,” she added. “This production especially has been really fun because it’s all set in Nevada in the desert but ... not only do you have country people — people dressed like they’re meant for the desert — but you have people that are in suits and stuff like that, and then you have people that are dressed like superstars, like movie stars, and then you have paparazzi and all that kind of stuff.”
Costumes for the play come from a numerous places, including a large loft of clothing stored above the high school auditorium and other area schools.
“We have the opportunity to borrow clothes from different schools,” Hovde explained. “Or sometimes they’ll borrow stuff from us.”
Ethan Scheibing, a junior, is the fall play’s head lighting chair. He said that’s a more complicated portion of producing a play than people may realize.
“You have to learn the play, you have to learn when all the cues are, then you have to map out all your spotlights, you have to map out what lights you’re going to use, and even when that’s done, you’re still not done because then you have to come in and rearrange the way all the lights were pointed from the last play,” Scheibing said. “That takes a while.”
This is the first time he’s been in charge of lighting, although he’s participated in that portion of productions each year he’s been in high school.
“I enjoy it a lot because it’s a lot of figuring stuff out as you go along,” Scheibing said. “I like that aspect of things. I don’t like things being planned out.”
Senior Owen Ericson is sound chair for the play, and he’s been in drama club all of his high school career.
“I just kind of like hanging out here. It’s pretty fun,” he said. “All things considered, the time you spend is worth it.
“I’m in charge of making sure that all the microphones (work) ... also in charge of the sound effects ... anything you can think of that is coming through the sound system,” Ericson added. “I’ve done sound crew pretty much all four years. I’ve only been chair for this one (so far).”
Sophomore Averhy Sanborn likes to act, but for “No Place Like Nowhere” she is helping with lighting.
“I’m usually on stage for musical because I like to sing, but it’s also a lot of fun to just watch the play because we have a lot of great actors; it’s a very good script; and it’s also fun to just learn a new part of theater because I like theater,” Sanborn said. “Learning how it all comes together was really fun.”
She said students definitely work hard to produce the play.
“There’s a time and place for everything, you know. We have a lot of fun but we also know how to get it in the zone to make a great show,” Sanborn said.