Penn-Trafford Drama Guild courts cynical politics with ‘The Mouse That Roared’
A tiny, fictitious European-ish nation starts a phony war with the United States — in the hopes that they can immediately surrender and the Americans will pay to rebuild their country and economy.
That might sound a bit political for a high school play, but it’s nothing new for the students at the Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild, who also staged George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” in 2017.
“It’s a trend we actually do a lot,” said senior Madison Pleins, 18, who will play several roles in the high school’s production of “The Mouse That Roared.”
The story, adapted from a 1955 Leonard Wibberley novel, was made into a 1959 film starring Peter Sellers, and was adapted for the stage in 1963.
The play goes all the way back to director Tom Bekavac’s first days in the district.
“In 1988, when R. Bruce Robinson hired me as an assistant, we did this play,” Bekavac said.
An American company comes up with a cheaper knockoff of the singular, prized export of the fictional country of Grand Fenwick: its Pinot Grand Fenwick wine.
The country’s prime minister then comes up with a cynical plan to declare war on the U.S., plotting to surrender shortly thereafter in hopes that American officials will agree to rebuild the country’s economy.
“I always try to find something that maybe students haven’t heard of before,” Bekavac said. “And this is basically what goes in on politics today.”
With a cast of 31, the show also is a way to spread stage experience around.
“With people graduating and trying to get freshmen a little experience, this is a way to get everyone a little stage time,” Bekavac said.
Senior Nick Konopka will play Grand Fenwick game warden Tully Bascombe, who finds himself drafted into the role of field marshal for the country’s ridiculously small army.
“This is probably the biggest role I’ve had,” Konopka said. “Trying to memorize the lines is a challenge.”
Senior Anna Johnston, 17, will play Gloriana, the 22-year-old Duchess of Grand Fenwick.
“People don’t take her seriously because she’s so young,” Johnston said. “I like it because it’s not like any other ‘princess’ role I’ve encountered. Things don’t exactly go her way, but she still is able to try to save the country.”
For Pleins, the biggest challenge will be playing three different characters over the course of only three script pages.
“Within those three pages, I play BBC, Russian and Brooklyn reporters,” Pleins said. “It’s been a lot of fun learning those accents, but the costume changes are pretty quick.”
“The Mouse That Roared” will be performed at 3 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17, and at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16. Tickets are $6 at the door.
For more, see PTHSDramaGuild.com.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .