MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 9, 2014

With 'On Golden Pond," MHS actors take the plunge

Play allows them to explore nuances of performing

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— Charles Dennison asks his acting partner Ashley Newton whether she wants to “dance or suck face?”

It’s just one of the subtle humorous lines delivered quietly by Charles, who portrays Norman Thayer Jr., a role made famous by the late Henry Fonda in the movie “On Golden Pond.” Muskogee High Repertoire Theater/Drama Club is performing the play at 7 p.m. today and Saturday with doors opening at 6:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. at the Muskogee High School cafeteria. The 2014 drama queen will be crowned during intermission Saturday. The cost is $5 for the shows today and Sunday and $20 for the Italian dinner theater on Saturday.

Kathleen “Kat” Trueblood, the fine arts department head/curriculum coordinator, is the artistic director for the play.

“I’m like the mom of the group,” she said at rehearsal. “We use theater to bind our friendship.”

The cast has been rehearsing since November. Trueblood explains repertoire theater as theater done wherever with no setting. The emphasis is on acting, she said.

Charles, 16, a sophomore, watched the movie to help him get in his role as Norman. He’s been doing theater for years and is on the speech and debate team. He said the toughest part of the play for him to do is to cry.

Ashley, 16, a junior, portrays Ethel Thayer and Chelsey Thayer. She has done theater a few times, she said. She’s done enough to know that she wants to continue it in college, where she plans to get a degree in sports medicine. Most of her lines come naturally to her, she said. A fight between Ethel and Chelsey, portrayed by Ashley Mayle, is the most fun, she said. (The two girls switch parts every other night. Ashley Newton portrays Ethel today and Sunday, and Ashley Mayle portrays the character at Saturday’s show.)

“It will make you laugh and cry,” Ashley Newton said of the show.

Trueblood said she chose this play about an aging couple, Ethel and Norman Thayer, who spend each summer at their cottage on a lake called Golden Pond. They are visited by their daughter Chelsey, who is somewhat estranged from her curmudgeon of a father. Chelsea introduces them to her new fiance, Billy Ray, a dentist, and asks the Thayers to permit his young son, Billy Ray Jr., to stay with them while the couple have some time to themselves.

“I wanted my actors to expand their base,” Trueblood said. “We’ve done quite a bit of drama. I wanted them to experience the nuances of emotions in acting like putting hands on a face or a pat on the knee, a look in the eye or how they approach someone.”

T.J. Town, 17, a junior, portrays Bill, and his brother, Jared Town, 15, a freshman, portrays his son. The two have added humor to rehearsals, for they joke with cast members when not on stage.

Max Johnson, 17, a senior, portrays Charlie, who brings the mail by boat to the Thayers.

“It’s great working with these guys,” he said. “It’s been a blast.”

If you go

WHAT: “On Golden Pond” presented by Muskogee High Repertoire Theater/Drama Club.

WHEN: 7 p.m. today and Saturday with doors opening at 6:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday with doors opening at 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Muskogee High School cafeteria.

TICKETS: $5 for today and Sunday shows, and $20 for Saturday’s dinner show and drama queen coronation.

INFORMATION OR RESERVATIONS FOR SATURDAY SHOW: (918) 348-8653 by 6 p.m. today.

The cast

Charles Dennison — Norman Thayer Jr.

Ashley Newton — Ethel Thayer (today and Sunday) and Chelsey Thayer (Saturday).

Max Johnson — Charlie.

Ashley Mayle — Chelsey Thayer (today and Sunday) and Ethel Thayer (Saturday).

Billy Ray Sr. — T.J. Town.

Billy Ray Jr. — Jared Town.