In the Lake Mary High School drama department’s upcoming production of Noises Off, the actors and actresses will be the stars, but the incredibly elaborate set just might steal the show
Be careful what you wish for.
That cautionary phrase likely has new meaning for Rob Spence, a dedicated parent who is the go-to set-builder for Lake Mary High School’s plays and musicals. Rob’s twin sons, Brandon and Trevor, have been active in the drama department since their freshman year. The boys, 17, are now seniors.
Last school year, Rob was joking with drama club co-sponsors Bill Eissele and Becca Southworth about potential shows for the 2016-17 theater season.
”All right, I really want a challenge,” Rob said to Becca. ”Give me a challenge.”
Bill and Becca obliged by selecting Noises Off, a three-act farce, as the school’s fall production. The hilarious play-within-a-play calls for a two-story, rotating set that turns 180 degrees between acts. One side represents the interior of a country home; the other side represents a theater’s backstage area.
“It is the largest, most elaborate set we have ever built for the Lake Mary stage,” says Becca, who is directing the show.
Rob, a business consultant, didn’t shy away from tackling the daunting project. Still, he was more than happy to accept an assist from architect Matt Cormia. Matt’s 16-year-old daughter, Kate, is in the cast of Noises Off, with Rob’s sons.
Matt readily admits not knowing what he was getting into when he offered to help build the set.
“And then I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, this thing flips around,’” chuckles Matt, who used a computer modeling program to create drawings of the set from multiple angles.
Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn in the early 1980s, is about a troupe of British actors who are rehearsing a play of their own, a flop titled Nothing On. The show is filled with fast-paced, physical comedy involving everything from sardines to missing contact lenses.
Lake Mary High’s production has been double cast, meaning two different casts will perform on alternating days. Brandon and Trevor share the role of the beleaguered director of the play-within-the-play.
For Rob and Matt, their top priority was creating a set that is strong enough to support a bunch of students who are slamming doors and running up and down stairs.
“This thing’s got to be structurally spot-on,” Rob says. “Frankly, there’s no way one person could pull this off.”
Rob, who lives in Heathrow, built much of the set in his garage, with elbow grease from his sons. Separate sections were then brought to the school to be assembled and painted, with help from students in Bill Eissele’s stagecraft class.
“It’s almost like a giant set of Tinkertoys,” Rob says.
The set has required a tremendous amount of sweat equity from the two dads, but they often seem to be having as much fun as the students.
“Half of this is for our own enjoyment,” Rob acknowledges. “But it’s also a little bit about legacy. We want to make this set out of components that can be reconfigured and reused.”
Rob and Matt have already discussed using parts of this set for the drama department’s next big undertaking, The Drowsy Chaperone. The musical comedy will be presented in the spring.
Matt says Rob’s energy and enthusiasm for the set work has been contagious. And, while Rob’s twins will be graduating soon, Matt’s daughter is only a junior.
“I can feel the torch being passed,” Matt jokes.
The Lake Mary High School Players of the Arts will present Noises Off from November 3 - 6 at the school auditorium, at 655 Longwood Lake Mary Road. Performances are at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, which are $5 for students and $7 for adults, will be available at the door. For details, call 407-320-9550.
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