Back in the saddle

Mallory Homewood, as Winnie Tate, kisses her boyfriend, played

Gilroy – There is a little known fact in the theater world that
most of the drama occurs backstage. This holds true for the 23 cast
and the seemingly infinite crew members of

Annie Get Your Gun,

Gilroy High School’s first senior play since 2001. The show
opens tonight after five GHS alumni collaborated to reinstate a
tradition.
Gilroy – There is a little known fact in the theater world that most of the drama occurs backstage. This holds true for the 23 cast and the seemingly infinite crew members of “Annie Get Your Gun,” Gilroy High School’s first senior play since 2001. The show opens tonight after five GHS alumni collaborated to reinstate a tradition.

“The senior play was like an institution when we were in school,” said GHS alumna Samantha Green, serving as the play’s costume and set designer. “It wasn’t just the theater kids. Everybody came out to see it regardless of their affiliation. Everyone was involved. But it kind of got lost over the years.”

The tradition of the senior play fell by the wayside during Kurt Meeker’s reign as drama teacher. Ethan Stocks, a 1999 GHS graduate, replaced him this year.

“There is a little known fact that when I was hired, I was told that I was to put on the senior play,” said Stocks. “But I realized I couldn’t do it alone.”

So he recruited help in the form of fellow GHS alumni Dennis Beasley and Lisanne Villa, who signed on as director and choreographer respectively. Stocks pulled GHS band director Joey Fortino into the mix to direct the play’s orchestra. He also serves as the electrical technician.

“Each one of us is a utility player,” Stocks said. “I don’t even know what everyone’s doing. Supposedly I’m producing this thing.”

Each alumni has multiple responsibilities. Villa, affectionately dubbed ‘Miss Community Theater,’ is part acting coach, part costume designer and stage coach, in addition to carrying out the duties of choreographer. Her motivation is to reinstate what was lost five years ago.

“We were really concerned about who was going to show up (to auditions), if people were going to take this seriously,” she said. But the students have taken the play and made it their own she said.

“We’ve come so far,” Villa said. “It’s really amazing to give someone something and have them shake it all up and twist it around, and give it back to you.”

Stocks estimates that more than 40 people have contributed to the production in some form, from painting the set and playing piano to videotaping rehearsals.

“We’ve called everyone under the sun for help,” he said. “And they’ve always come.”

In addition to crew, the students have dedicated countless hours of preparation for the senior performance. Aside from memorizing lines, the costumes – glistening with sequins and roped with leather – could be mistaken for rentals, but are the creation of the students.

During dress rehearsal Tuesday night at GHS theater, senior Ryan McBrearty, clad in cowboy-western garb, took the stage and broke into song for the opening scene of “Annie Get Your Gun.” The theater was empty, save for the lighting crew. McBrearty is just one of 23 seniors participating. Many have zero theater experience under their cowboy hats, and most have no recollection of senior play’s history.

“For the seniors participating this year, senior play is something new,” said Sherrie Kennedy, a parent co-chair of Grad Night activities for the senior class. “Years and years ago, (in 1979), Jim Miya started the senior play, and when he left they just didn’t have someone who was enthusiastic about keeping it around. I’m glad to see that they’re taking a stab at doing it again,” she said.

But not all the actors have been kept in the dark.

“It’s their tradition they’re trying to reinstate,” said Buffalo Bill Cody, otherwise known as 17-year old Jeremy Borgia, referencing the alumni crew. “I think it’s more of a performance for them – and I think it makes it better,” he said.

No longer concerned about the play coming together or the actors forgetting their lines, the alumni harbor one final concern: Fielding an audience.

“It used to be a big to-do in Gilroy” said director Dennis Beasley. “The question is, how many remember?”

Tickets are available at the door for $10, $8 for senior students. The show runs from March 17-19 and 24-26. Curtain opens at 8pm.

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