Monticello High School’s thespians are going old school in a modern way this fall with an adaptation of the Greek Classic "The Frogs," which is set for 7 p.m. performances this Friday and Saturday in the MHS auditorium.
"The Frogs: A Modern Adaptation" keeps most of the mythological Greek characters from the original 2,400-year-old work, including Dionysus, Xanthias, Hercules and Charon. The 21st-century version also keeps the same theme: the god of wine and poetry (Dionysus) goes to the underworld to retrieve a famous playwright to help restore some culture to the entertainment industry.
The "modern" part is the inclusion of pop culture references, from the Kardashians and social media to reality shows and Honey Boo Boo.
It’s at least a little over the top, but is meant to be.
"I like how it’s completely and utterly ridiculous," said student director Torrey Diniz. "When we first read the synopsis I thought that, for this group of thespians it’s right up our alley. It’s silly, and a little dramatic, but soap opera dramatic."
The play follows Dionysus and his trusted servant Xanthias as they travel down below to rescue Shakespeare and bring him back to the land of the living in order to upgrade the quality of entertainment. Blocking their way is a chorus of reality television-loving frogs, who put the god on trial.
In the original play penned by Aristophanes in 405 BC, Dionysus attempts to bring back playwright Euripedes, who had died the year before.
Helping head up Monticello’s frog fighters is senior Faith Rund, who has seen a lot of things in four years of plays and musicals, but never thought she would lead a band of underworld amphibians.
"It was definitely not a thought that came into my mind, that I would be the leader of the demon frogs," she joked.
"I was a little skeptical at first because I didn’t know what it was about or anything about it. But once we got the script and started with the read-throughs, I realized it was going to be really funny and it’s grown on me a lot more," added Rund.
The play also features the return of director Nicki Graham, who directed some 30 plays and musicals at MHS until stepping down in 2012 to free up time for her family.
"This is definitely slapstick, kind of satire. Anything they can make a biting joke about these reality shows – that’s what they’ve done," added Graham, who also teaches language arts at Monticello Middle School.
She also chose this particular production to help draw the actors out.
"Because I was coming back and was new again, I knew I needed to get something the kids could have fun with, where they could kind of let loose, and something that would draw kids," she commented. "And with the hype and silliness of the show – and I like that it brings in stories from mythology – it also has a commentary on where our entertainment industry is today and the dumbing down of what people think is entertainment."
Letting loose was one of the most difficult parts to grasp, said Rund, whose part includes leading her frogs in song.
"You just have to go for it. From the beginning you just have to let yourself do it," she said.
"The hardest part now is just keeping a straight face," added Rund, noting attire ranges from tie-died shirts to a sumo suit.
"Now it’s kind of fun because I’m having to pull them back a little bit," joked Graham.
"I think everyone gets a time to shine. I think the kids have really progressed from the beginning to now in letting their inhibitions go. We struggled a little early on in just trying to not worry about being silly. Be bigger," added the director.
Assisting Graham is high school counselor Amy Malone, who has taken on the role of helping craft the outlandish costumes that are featured by several cast members. Art Club students also helped with the set.
Attendees will also be treated to cameos by current district instructors, who will be featured as reality show judges in one scene.
Tickets for the shows on Oct. 27-28 will be available at the door, which open at 6 p.m. each evening for the 7 p.m. shows.
Director: Nicki Graham
Assistant Director: Amy Malone
Student Director: Torrey Diniz
Stage Managers: Blake Johnson, Noah Doremus
Cast members: Jack Knittle, Carly Kallembach, Aiden Olsen, Torrey Diniz, Piper King, Preston Nowlin, Maya Kaczor, Paine Nowlin, Hannah Carter, Abby King, Kaelen Olsen, Kat Primmer, Annie Clifton, Isabel Pellum; Faith Rund, Danielle Cafin, Nick Wolter, Audra Heistand, Haley Baker, Grace O’Brien, Maggie Schlabach, Jamisan Matalonis, Olivia Bales, Kaitlyn Heistand, Avery Menacher, Annie Clifton, Kat Primmer, Kaelen Olsen, Isabel Pellum, Preston Nowlin, Piper King and Torrey Diniz.