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Mature comedy-drama planned for Southmoreland play

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Tara Ritz (left) as Star, the lead of the play, who has cystic fibrosis and is admitted to the Heart House, an inpatient facility for children who are dying. Kelsey Romagnoli (right) as Sally, a peppy and annoying patient, who gets under Star's skin.
Tara Ritz (left) as Star conversing with her new roommate, Courtney, played by Taylor Millslagle, who is a preppy, head cheerleader who can't stand to be around sick kids.

A group of students at Southmoreland High School will be taking to the stage for the next three nights to perform the play “John Lennon and Me.”

Samantha Gray, student business manager for this year's production, said it is a touching performance full of comedy and heartfelt life lessons.

Self-named Star is an occupant at the Heart House, a home for sick kids, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

It isn't long before a new roommate comes and flips her world upside down — not to mention her room — and the question soon arises about whether Star will learn what true friendship really is.

The play is scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the High School. Tickets are $5.

Senior Tara Ritz will play the lead role.

Director Brenton DeFlitch said he chose the play because he felt that it fit the emotional maturity level of the students, and also fit personalities of the students in the play from last year.

“It seemed as though the characters were written directly about some of our students, which intrigued me to provide a play that more of our high school and middle school students can connect with and learn from,” he said.

The past two years the school plays had a children's theme, which DeFlitch said takes a specific type of acting and delivery.

“I felt this year that I wanted to push students out of the comical children genre and into a more mature comedy drama,” he said. “I hope that they gain the insight of life learned by Star, the main character, and that they take that home with them to friends and family members.”

Gray said practices have been so good up to this point.

“There have been a few delays for our Super Saturday rehearsals, but we supplemented other practices with more time in order to make up for the lost Saturday practices,” she said. “The cast has been pulling together great. They have formed a bond that should really show on stage.”

Getting ready for the production has been challenging for Gray, especially in the little details.

“In order to make this production the best it can be, not only do the actors need to perform, but props needed purchased, advertising needed done, clothing needed made or bought, the playbill needed written, the budget needed kept, and this all has to be organized and done in a certain amount of time,” she said. “It is a bit stressful.”

But it's not all stress for Gray. There also are good parts.

“Seeing all that results of the hard work and dedication that the cast and crew put into it, really makes it worth it,” she said. “When the auditorium is full and all the families of the actors and the members of the community are applauding and cheering for the event you put your time, sweat, and tears into, that makes it all worth it.”

The contrasting personalities of the characters will be a highlight for the audience, because they really provide both the comedy and the drama for the play.

“From a nurse known as ‘The Torturer' to a diabetic patient with a weakness for Twinkies, the characters are sure to capture the hearts and evoke laughter from the audience,” Gray said.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.