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Geyer PAC looks at ‘a year in the life’ in ‘Unconventional’ |
Theater & Arts

Geyer PAC looks at ‘a year in the life’ in ‘Unconventional’

Candy Williams
Arthur Savage and Mandy Eckenrode Duxbury perform in “Unconventional.”
Adeline White and Issie Sharlock are among the cast of “Unconventional.”

A local woman’s play that originated as part of Actors and Artists of Fayette County’s One Acts Festival in 2017 will make its debut as a full-length production March 7-10 at Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale.

Jessica Zack of Uniontown will direct four performances of “Unconventional,” which follows characters through a year of their lives, delving into friendships, romance and growing up through the eyes of teenagers and “20-somethings.”

Zack said after she had the chance to direct her one-act, she wanted to flesh out the story further.

“At the time I was inspired by my relationship with my 12-year-old cousin, who I babysat a lot at the time,” she said. “I found it very interesting how, even though we were in different stages of our lives, the problems we were having were very similar.”

Zack directed “The Breakfast Club” at Geyer PAC last November as well as her own 10-minute plays for several festivals, including at the Phoenix Arts Center in Uniontown in 2017 and 2018. She was a theater major at Washington and Jefferson College and has written other 10-minute, one-act and full-length plays.

Playwright, director, actor

“‘Unconventional’ is the first full-length play that I have been lucky enough to have produced,” she said. She also has acted in many community theater productions, including “A Chorus Line,” “Storybook Christmas Review,” “Jekyll and Hyde” and “West Side Story” at the Geyer.

Adeline White of Scottdale, an eighth-grade student at Southmoreland Middle School, plays the role of Michaela Cabot in “Unconventional.”

“Like me, she’s a teenager that gets involved in typical teenager stuff,” said White, who also performed in the original short version of the play.

Relatable subject matter

“Working with Jessica Zack is always a wonderful experience, and I couldn’t wait to see how the full-length play unfolded. It’s such a privilege to be a part of an original production,” she said. “The audiences will love this show. It’s about real life and the struggles many ‘Unconventional’ families face. I think everyone can relate.”

White’s stage credits include “West Side Story,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Addams Family” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Shannon Riley of Greensburg will portray Addie Cabot, a young woman who has taken on the responsibility of custody of her 14-year-old niece, whose own mother can’t care for her anymore.

Bringing a new character to life

“Addie herself is barely out of her mid-20s and struggling to cope with her own independence and self-identity,” Riley said. “I’d say one of the biggest challenges in performing this show is the idea of originating a role. Getting to portray Addie has really given me the chance to find her as a new character and really bring her to life.”

Riley said audiences will find the show that focuses on “human connection and people, with all their flaws and missteps,” to be funny, heartfelt and sincere. Her credits include “The Breakfast Club,” “A Chorus Line,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

For Zack, directing her own play is a bit easier than working with another playwright’s work.

Freedom to edit

“One great thing is that if a line sounds weird or if something is difficult to block, I just change it. When you’re the writer, you can take whatever liberties you like. I’ve added some jokes and references that are specific to my group of actors, so it’s nice to have the freedom to do that,” she said.

She currently has no plans to stage “Unconventional” at other theaters.

“I am very invested and passionate about the Geyer community, and I really wrote this play for them, as well as that space specifically,” she said. “However, I’m definitely open to the idea of it being put on elsewhere, if anyone is interested.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Categories: AandE | Theater Arts
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