On Monday night, summer students from the Access Exeter Creative Arts Cluster demonstrated their theatrical talents by performing three one-act comedies, all of which had some serious (and mostly not-so-serious) advice for the audience. Under the direction of summer theater teacher Amy Beth Gelineau, over thirty summer Exonians provided tips and tricks on subjects ranging from fighting zombies to succeeding in high school without much effort. While the usefulness of zombie warfare techniques is debatable, the enthusiasm of the cast and the hard work put into the production are not, and these three performances were a welcome and humorous break from the Exeter summer communities’ more serious projects, commitments, and homework.
Though a zombie apocalypse may seem unlikely – unless one is a fan of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” – it is always better to be safe than sorry. Be prepared! In Don Zolidis’s “How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse,” two government agents provide advice and inspiration to a small group of humans who are fighting to stay alive as the world around them turns into a land of brain-eating zombies. One bit of advice given by the agents is to fight off the undead using martial arts, or one could just use good old-fashioned trickery (“Hey, Zombie – what’s that behind you?” as you make your escape when the zombie turns to look behind her). More practically but less kind, don’t forget that you can always sacrifice the weaker survivors to save yourself.
It may look easy and effortless, but comedy has its own set of rules. In “The Rules of Comedy,” by Peter Bloedel, the student actors reminded us that comedy is like a science, where some things work on stage while other things just don’t. Using Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” to prove their theory that comedy has rules, the cast members took us inside Shakespeare’s classic tragedy to teach us about comedy. Rubber chickens used as a theater prop? Funny. Realistic looking ghosts on stage? Not funny. Gorilla suits? Funny (even just a hairy part of a gorilla suit is funny). Using real clubs to fight other actors? Never funny. This humorous take on tragedy and comedy by Peter Bloedel as performed by talented Exeter summer students? Always funny.
More important for those of us in the audience who are in high school or heading there soon, the cast’s presentation of Jonathan Rand’s “How to Succeed in High School without Really Trying” provided great advice on how to get ahead at school, whether at Exeter or somewhere else. At the beginning, government agents inform an audience of 8th graders that they have “temporarily kidnapped” their teachers and infiltrated their student assembly to provide advice for high school. And what advice is that? In addition to legally changing one’s name to “what?” to get out of attending classes, one should always speak in English class with “100 percent authority,” whether one knows what she’s saying or not. In other words, it’s not important to understand what you’re saying as long as you say it with all your heart. We are assured by the agents that following this golden rule of English class, and the other rules described in the play, will guarantee high school success.
An evening of humor, especially humor geared toward students our age, is always welcome at Exeter. We are thankful to Ms. Gelineau and the summer Creative Arts students for reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously and, most of all, to enjoy each other’s laughter.