Last weekend, Mahomet-Seymour High School's 27-member performance of "I Don't Have a Clue" left audience members rolling in laughter. The comedic murder-mystery dinner plot left the crowd guessing who were the good guys and who were the bad guys up until the very end.
"(It's) over-the-top, ridiculous in every sense of the word, but also funny," said Carly Pogue, who played Carol Robinson.
The senior auditioned for the play because she related to her character.
"Carol is a middle-aged woman who gets easily excited, and I felt that I related to that on a deep level," Pogue said while laughing. "I thought, 'That would be the perfect part for me.'"
Senior lighting chair John Scheiding also found the play pleasing.
"I was pretty amazed," he said. "This was pretty funny. There have been plays in the past where I'm like, 'This is boring. I don't like this,' but I like this one."
For senior Peter Kamp, who played Edgar Robinson, the performance was a chance to change up his daily routine.
"Every day I get to be myself, but there's only a small amount of time where I can be someone else, and not only enjoy it for myself, but enjoy it for the other people who come out to see the show," he said. "It's really a joy."
As for junior Lizzie Stremming, who was the art crew co-chair and played Queen Bea, the play taught her key life lessons.
"I used to be more of an introvert, and getting to know people through drama, I can talk to people and get to know more people," she said.
Funnier moments behind the scenes included when Kiel Ledin, who played Officer Cleever, egged on his cast members during the first read-through of the script.
"Very early on, any mistakes that happen are natural," he said.
"Just as a joke, I would say, 'Look guys, we don't have time for this. The show is tomorrow,'" Ledin added. "This just kept up every single day of practice. I would do it more and more every single day."
Low and behold, the students decided to use the joke as the quote for their cast and crew T-shirts.
The senior faced a whole new set of challenges this year as the student director.
"I've learned a lot about accountability on my part and making sure people understand what I'm communicating with them and being patient with that," Ledin said.
"It's been a fun experience. I've loved pretty much every second of it. It's been a good time."
First-time cast members and sophomores Emma Beddow and Kylie Fuoss, who played Ginger and Miss Draper, respectively, were more than excited to get their first experience under the stage lights.
Fuoss said the experience made her a "better" and "more social person."
"It's just been a really great experience getting to act with all of these people," she said.
Beddow served as a crew member during her freshman year, but the experience of performing in front of an audience was a whole new opportunity for the sophomore.
"It's been so open and welcome," Beddow said. "I don't have any lines or anything, but everyone's been so open with open arms and it's just been great. It's been such a great experience and I've had so much fun."
Her advice for those sitting on the sidelines?
"Everyone should know this is an open place," Beddow added. "You can come anywhere — you can do crew, you can do acting, whatever; it's open."
Sunday's curtain call was bittersweet for the cast and crew, especially for senior Kamp.
"Just seeing my other castmates who I've been with over the years since junior high and how they've grown," Kamp said. "It's been great to see."
Justus Payne, who played Sgt. Thornbury, has been in the fall play since his freshman year.
His favorite part?
"I really like working with Mrs. (Chris) Taber," Payne added. "She's just an amazing director."
This year's play is also sentimental for director Chris Taber, who is a theater teacher at Champaign's Franklin STEAM Academy, as it is her fourth year directing, and the seniors in this year's cast were freshman when she became director.
"There's so many things that make them special," Taber said. "They are all the age of my daughter who is also a senior. I've known many of them from kindergarten and watched them grow."
"It's crazy," she added. "I feel like a mama bird. You guys are ready to fly away from the nest. It's watching them grow and grow every year and become leaders in the drama department themselves. It's amazing."
Her favorite moment?
Watching the seniors step into leadership roles.
"We always have a roundup before each performance where we get into a circle as a cast with all of the crew," Taber said.
"The seniors and anyone who has been in a couple of shows know what to expect and how to channel the nerves, the jitters and the butterflies in the stomach," she added. "They were really helpful and uplifting to the kids who didn't have as much experience."
One thing that never tires for Taber is simply watching the magical energy between the actors on stage.
"It's just the excitement," she said. "Watching those kids who don't know much of what it's like to perform to have the synergy between the actors ... watching them beforehand and afterward, they're like, 'That was awesome!'"
But perhaps the biggest takeaway for Taber and her cast and crew were the formed bonds.
"Just listening to them talk about the last four years," Taber said. "You create a little family that lives for those couple of months."
"The seniors were getting a little teary-eyed talking about how awesome it was to grow in the department," she added. "They found their niche in high school. There's something about a drama department and doing theater with other theater geeks. It's so awesome."