Denfeld grads return to inspire fellow actors: High school's production of comedy 'The Nerd' opens Thursday
Director Matthew Pursi works with a member of his seven-person cast Monday night. The actor, Brian Johnson, is set to play an 8-year-old terror in Denfeld High School's production of "The Nerd." "You want women to hate you, then they'll love you,...
Director Matthew Pursi works with a member of his seven-person cast Monday night.
The actor, Brian Johnson, is set to play an 8-year-old terror in Denfeld High School's production of "The Nerd."
"You want women to hate you, then they'll love you," Pursi said to Johnson. "Anyone who has ever babysat a child will hate you."
This is Johnson's motivation behind his character, Thor Waldgrave.
Pursi and co-director Travis Hill work with all the actors to give them a sense of their characters. Their work is made harder by the fact Larry Shue's "The Nerd" is a comedy.
Teaching timing is almost impossible, Hill said. But so far the students have gotten it, Pursi said.
"The Nerd" opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Denfeld High School, 4405 W. Fourth St.
The actors say their success is because of their directors' work.
Pursi pushes the actors to become the characters they're playing, said actor Kaio'O'Kalani Kealohapauole.
Both have been phenomenal coaches, actor Rachel Johnson said.
"Working with them has made me so much aware of some of the basics," Rachel said. "Acting is a thing I really love and a big part of that is because of what they've taught me."
Hill and Pursi's advice isn't the only thing about them that inspires the actors.
Pursi graduated from Denfeld five years ago. Hill graduated in 2003 and assistant director Drew Bloomquist graduated in 2001.
All three have come back to support the program that inspired them.
"It's kind of our way of giving back, that's how we look at it," Pursi said.
People like Pursi, Hill and Bloomquist are what keep programs like Denfeld's alive, Rachel said.
"You really see how this program affected their lives," she said. "Now they're instilling that in us ... and you don't see a lot of that in our community."
Rachel said she hopes to follow in the men's footsteps and give that inspiration to other high schoolers some day.
Jill Lofald, director of the Denfeld theater and speech program, said she is proud when she sees her former students return.
Pursi and Hill have both been coming back to Denfeld to help with speech and theater since graduation. Last year, the pair worked as assistant directors to Lofald. This is their first time directing by themselves.
The pair have been in charge of the production from finding the script through the performances this week.
They have found that directing has many challenges.
"You just take on 11 other people's problems for two months," Pursi said.
The directors have had to deal with sports practices, pneumonia, bomb searches and more interfering with their scheduling. They are also in charge of costuming, set design and lighting.
"When you take on the job of director ... you take on all the jobs not just one," Hill said.
They've also had to make some changes to the script. A major male role became a female role. They decided to update the play, originally set in 1981, to a 2006 setting.
The story follows Willum Cubbert, a 34-year-old man who was saved while unconscious by fellow soldier Rick Steadman during the Gulf War. The two men have kept in touch through letters since the war but have never met face-to-face.
The play takes place during one weekend when Rick comes to meet Willum and turns out to be an insufferably, annoying nerd.
Rick is the polar opposite of any normal person in this world, said actor Brian Langlee, who plays Rick Steadman.
"I do a lot of weird things," he said. "(Rick) thinks anything is normal even if it is really weird."
How Willum deals with Rick leads the play to some of its more serious themes. These themes look at the question of "do you choose love or money" and "what do we do with the Rick Steadmans in our life," Pursi said.
The cast is doing well with the play, Pursi said.
"It's an amazing cast," Pursi said. "I couldn't ask for anything better."
Langlee again cites the comic wit of his directors as the actors' inspiration.
"(Pursi) can stand up here, watch you and see things that no one else would have seen your character doing ... and it's genius," he said. "They're the triumvirate of comedy."
News to Use:
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9-11
2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Denfeld High School, 4405 W. Fourth St.
The cost is $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.