Student Actors Face Dramatic Challenges Preparing for the Upcoming Play “The Great Gatsby”

great-gatsby-aticle-picture

This photo was taken during rehearsal for “The Great Gatsby.” Victor Moss on the left, Olivia Mears in the middle and Drew Strand on the right. Photo Credit / Emma Whitehead

For many students their dream is to star in a play. For junior, Drew Strand, junior, Victor Moss, and senior, Olivia Mears this dream has become a reality as they have been giving the leading roles in Loy Norrix’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”

The “Great Gatsby” is about a man named Nick Carraway. Nick moves to West Egg, New York, across from where his cousin Daisy lives and next door to millionaire Jay Gatsby. Out of the blue, Nick is invited to the mysterious Gatsby mansion for a party. At the party, he discovers secrets that could tear families apart and gets caught in the crossfire of a love triangle.

Strand is playing the role of Nick Carraway.

“This is my first leading role and I’m super stoked,” said Strand. Strand has been in many of Loy Norrix’s productions since his freshman year. He played Flute in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and was a member of the ensemble in “Urinetown.” He also played Randolph in “Bye Bye Birdie” and was in several productions at Maple Street Magnet School.

“Drew has this ability to tell a great story. In forensics, he’s an exceptional storyteller, and Nick has a lot of lines and monologues,” said Loy Norrix drama teacher and director of “The Great Gatsby,” Paige O’Shea. “He’s what pushes the whole play forward. I think Drew is someone who can do that because he’s sincere and beyond talented. He has such great talent and he’s never a jerk about it, he’s just who he is.” 

Junior Victor Moss has been in a few other productions at Loy Norrix as well. His repertoire includes, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where he played Lysander, and “Bye Bye Birdie,” where he played Conrad Birdie, and now stars as the dashing Jay Gatsby.

“Last year I was able to watch Victor kind of try theater for the first time, and I watched how he became invested quickly and is passionate about what he’s doing,” continued O’Shea. “Then, this year at auditions, Victor blew me away with his ability to kind of be a man of mystery and to transform who he is to be whatever character is requested of him.”

Senior Olivia Mears has been in two other productions at Loy Norrix. She played Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last year and she was Belinda in “Noises Off” during her sophomore year. Although she’s only had a couple of roles, she’s been on production crew for the rest of Loy Norrix’s productions since her freshman year. Now she is playing Daisy Buchanan.

“Olivia as Daisy was interesting to cast because Daisy’s such a complex character and she goes from ups and downs and in-betweens and all over the place, and then she’s happy one minute, and knowing Olivia and getting to know her last year and seeing her read as Daisy, it just fit,” said O’Shea. “They both have these sweet and sincere sides and Olivia has this ability to act that’s beyond her age. She has that ability to go manic and come back and be mellow and then be this frantic person.”

 Each actor connects with their character in their own ways.

“I’m pretty sure Nick and I are the same person,” said Strand.

“Gatsby’s a mysterious man and I’ve been told that I’m mysterious too, mostly because I’m not a huge talker,” said Moss.

“I think Daisy and I are pretty similar. She’s a little bit more manic depressive than I am but she puts a lot of trust in people and sees the good in people. I identify a lot with that part of her,” said Mears.

These students dedicate much of their time for the sake of the show. They spend hours and hours a day memorizing all of their lines and cues to go on stage. They all have different ways of getting prepared for their roles and get into character.

“Daisy has so many levels, like yes she’s crazy and manic depressive, but there’s so many levels to that, it just depends on the line, like if I say something wrong or if I say something that doesn’t seem like Daisy then Ms. O’Shea will give me a different direction or tell me to find a different emotion in that line,” said Mears. “So we just have to play with all the different emotions in certain lines and see what fits.”

Moss shared that he got his haircut to get into character and to prepare for his role.

For Moss, since he doesn’t relate with the secret love interests and drama of Gatsby, he said, “If I have lines that are super lovey dovey and having to do with Daisy, I’ll think about other things that I feel that way about and that kind of helps me get into the mood.”

School plays and musicals require so much more than just practicing lines over and over again and then going on stage and performing for an audience. It’s about the actors really giving it their all and leaving it all out on the stage.

School plays and musicals are also a way to make new friends, meet new people, have a good time and create a lifetime worth of amazing memories.

“The best time for me was probably when Ms. O’Shea had a meeting and we all got together in the room and we were trying on costumes and going over our lines together and it was really laid back and kind of an easy rehearsal,” said Mears.

“My personal least favorite part of rehearsal is when we start saying we’re off book. Being off book means that all the lines have to be memorized because that’s the [actor’s] job. Essentially, it just makes everything run smoother when they aren’t holding a piece of paper in their hand,” said O’Shea.

Rehearsal is usually fun but sometimes things get just plain awkward.

“My worst time in rehearsal was probably when we first had to do stage kisses. That was pretty weird because the person I was doing the stage kiss with was Bonnie Bremer, and I’ve known her for a long time and that was just kind of weird,” said Strand.

According to the actors, rehearsal has good days and bad days but it’s an amazing experience. Once it’s all over and they see how well the performance went, it all becomes worth it.  

“My favorite time is usually in the beginning when everyone is really amped up and they’re like, ‘this is my first time in a show,’ or ‘great I have lines this year, last year I didn’t,’” O’Shea continued “and they’re excited about this new adventure and they’re excited to have a costume and they’re excited to have props and they’re excited for their parents to see them on stage and I love seeing their passion grow from that.”

To come see these talented students this production will be shown at these dates:

  • October 26th, 7 p.m., student night
  • October 28th, 7 p.m.
  • October 29th,  two showings, at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m..

Tickets cost $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors. You can pay for tickets at the door with cash or check, or you may also purchase them online with a credit or debit card.  

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