“Well, This is Awkward,” a play of 12 parts written, directed and acted by Rancho Cotate students, inaugurated drama in the new theater of the TAG building on May 14. Led by drama teacher Sara Ghazikhanian, the students presented twelve skits linked by stories of awkward situations to usher in a new era of shows presented in a professional theater.
No more cafeteria aromas, no more neck strains, no more sketchy lighting and screechy sound systems. On with the show!
Along with the “awkward” theme, a skeleton prop whose stage name is Gerald, ties 11 of 12 skits together. Three drama classes wrote, directed, and performed the skits producing a collaborative effort that, according to Ghazikhanian, taught more than a traditional textbook and lecture approach could about drama to the students.
Collaboration extended beyond the drama as shop classes designed and built set pieces as backdrops for the furniture and other props. On one side, screens presented views looking out of windows onto a lake and four pine trees. Other screens gave the effect of being outside or provided simple black drops.
For the final dress rehearsal, school district technicians adjust the lights and the sound, and the drama teacher checks the blocking and moves various actors to different parts of the stage. Students move furniture in the darkened back of the stage. Then the narrator appears, downstage center, and introduces the show as a whole and the first skit, “Mommies and Crushes Don’t Mix.”
Written by Izzy Gutierrez, Isaac Munger and Cat Sharp, Max played by Mikey Carrillo and Riley played by Allie Unrau appear as the lights come up. Max sits on one part of the stage talking to Carl the skeleton. About to call Riley for a date, Max anxiously considers the possibilities with Carl. Working up his courage, Max asks Riley to go out after she reveals that she likes him. As the lights darken, the audience imagines the two hitting it off at the mini-golf course.
This leads to the second skit, “House Hunters,” written by Gracie Pallas and Jaden Vallejos. Another level of awkwardness explored as a married couple looking for a new home encounters the former gay lover of the husband. Gracie, Jaden and Miles Lempinen perform this scene leaving someone out of a relationship.
“Party Foul,” written and directed by Kaia Folgelsong and Charlie Sterling who act in this scene along with Paris Paez and Giovanna Guerra, creates another awkward moment when a drunken debate takes place between two recently broken up lovers.
Makayla Coleman wrote and directed “Trix Rabbit.” Imani Bell, Cat Sharp and Allie Unrau play the friend, the niece and the aunt. The aunt shows old pictures of the niece producing an all too familiar awkward scene.
“A Funeral to Remember,” co-written by Jaime Voelker and Sierra Stone, was directed by Sierra. The writers and Halle Neuerburg play characters in a funeral parlor. A young woman stumbles into the wrong funeral and leaves saying, “Well, this is awkward.”
“The Longest Nap” borrows from the early American literature story, “Rip Van Winkle” as Redgonal, played by Aidan Kohl, has either been asleep for five years or deceased. The skit, written by Taylor Pennicle, Aidan Kohl and Sarah Potter, features the three writers plus Jaden Vallejos, Tabitha Van Deren, Jada Stine and Spencer Turnbull.
Borrowing from an all too modern problem, “Catfish,” written by Erica Jones and Laureen Poteet is directed by Erica and stars Lauren and Riktor Phillips. Two people sitting on a bench waiting to meet Facebook dates discover that they have been catfished by each other.
Carmen Aviles and Isabella Mendoza wrote, directed and acted in “The Hippie Neighbor.” When one girl who has just met another girl suggests that the two become friends and play games, the other girl recommends hide ‘n’ seek and then runs off to avoid being with the friendly girl.
What can be more awkward than things that happen at an office party? Directed by Alondra Catalan, “Office Party” was written by its three actors: Gustavo Licea, Alondra Catalan and Spencer Turnball. What happens when there is only one cookie left? Awkward!
Another all too common awkward moment is captured in “When You See Your Ex in Public.” Directed by Julian Kelly who also wrote this with Anika Avelino and Maylinne Hennessey Reyes, used seven actors: Natalia Mendoza Ojeda, Taylor Phennicle, Miles Lempinen, Sarah Potter, Aidan Kohl, and authors Anika Avelino and Jullian Kelly. The large cast magnified the embarrassing public encounter of the ex-lovers.
“Donation Debacle” offers a look at another awkward moment, dealing with those seeking charity. Mikey Carrillo and RJ Li wrote and directed this scene and played in it along with Isaac Munger, Shailynn Martin and Nathan Brokaw. Look for the surprise coming out of the cart.
“Stuck” tackles another awkward situation, being stuck on a stuck elevator with a claustrophobe and a germophobe. Written by Khalil Tams, Jalil Tams and Ashley Talbot, and directed by Khalil Tams, this skit features Makayla Coleman, Ashley Talbot and Paris Paez. Complicating matters, a third person, Cassius, cautions, “I have to poop so bad.”
The narrator, Kylie, wraps things up succinctly, as she says, “Well, that was awkward!” What was not awkward but was fun was this student view of life. Imani Bell said, “I like the people bringing their own style to the show and we blend so well.” Student generated and student acted, these awkward moments relate to most all of us.
Where did this inspiration come from? Laureen Poteet believes that the students doing all aspects of the drama made it better. “Since we made our own skits, this shows how creative we are.”
These many students added a new chapter in Rancho Cotate history as they developed the first dramatic production to be performed in the new Theater Arts building. Drama teacher Sara Ghazikhanian looks forward to building the program using this fine facility. The “Awkward” show, using so much Rancho talent, is just the beginning.