BETHLEHEM — Halloween may be five months away but spooky tales will take center stage at the Bethlehem Central Middle School with its Stage Creations’ “Nightmare on Kenwood” production from Thursday, May 9 through Saturday, May 11.
“Nightmare on Kenwood” is an original stage production written by William Reilly who also serves as its co-director, alongside Michelle Grogan.
Divided into four so-called acts, it also combines several classic thrillers including William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” W.W. Jacobs’ 1902 supernatural short story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” Edgar Allen Poe’s 1842 short story “The Masque of the Red Death” and Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, “Frankenstein.” Numerous famous figures like Cleopatra and Julius Caesar will also be portrayed in this 90-minute production.
Performances will be on Thursday, May 9 at 7 p.m.; Friday, May 10 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, May 11 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and faculty. While tickets first went out on Thursday, May 2, they are also available for sale in the middle school lobby for two hours before each show. Viewers can expect a showing that includes strobe lights, creepy characters and a “big surprise” ending where the audience will be able to interact with the cast, according to Reilly.
Reilly said that this was his first opportunity to direct a play although he did produce two 90-minute black-and-white mystery films for the school around seven years ago which had involved 50 faculty and students. He recalled that they were “big hits” and about 5,000 watched it. “But this year, I decided to jump in and I’m learning the directing process with this play,” he said. “Moviemaking has given me lots of skills and I’m having a great time with the kids.”
Speaking of whom, there are over 60 students who make up this production’s extensive cast and crew. Reilly said the production has been overcoming challenges like how hectic the set changes are since there are four acts, and how light and sound must be timed perfectly with the acting cast on stage to deliver the scenes. He added that the sets and most of the costumes were designed and created by the students.
“Students have such responsible roles in every aspect of this production and I even have some students to help direct,” he said. “One of my goals is to give students as many opportunities as I can for them to experience leadership and decision-making. Often, they’ve challenged me in a good way and even come up with ideas I didn’t come up with. That overall has improved the play really.”
Olivia Skuza and Anna Brock, both seventh graders, serve as the assistant directors. “We help get the actors into playing their character roles as best as we can and we also work with the lighting, sound and stage people,” Skuza said. “We basically help run it when Mr. Reilly is busy directing other students in the meantime.”
They both said they had been involved in last year’s production too where they thought their work with the makeup and costume departments individually then can better help their roles as assistant directors this year. Brock said Reilly offered them their roles, and that auditions and the first meetings for “Nightmare for Kenwood” began last October; rehearsals began before March.
“It’s been a huge learning experience definitely and it’s been a lot of fun,” Brock added. “One challenge, maybe, is that we have many new actors in this production so we have to work with them with direction with their roles. But besides that, it’s mostly been pretty smooth sailing.”
Fellow students Piper Doolen, a seventh grader, and Lyla Stebbins, a sixth grader, are in charge of the costume department. Doolen said she was in a school play last year and was ecstatic when Reilly emailed her last summer to manage the costume department this year. She also confirmed that many costumes, originally homemade, were reused from the theater’s inventory which Reilly pulled out and some other costumes were brought in from students’ homes.
Stebbins, also excited to be involved this year, said, “There’s now more than enough costumes. It does get really hard though when people lose their costumes because it is a very big production so things can get a bit crazy. But we also try to keep the costumes organized as much as we can.”
When asked what other challenges the production has faced, Reilly said that sometimes students forget their lines or need more time to rehearse. “It was also difficult working with microphones and coordinating with everyone due to sound issues and our lighting board is complicated,” he said. “But I’m always constantly encouraging and I see them growing with more confidence over time. I’ve had students who didn’t know what a lighting board is before and now they get a lot more experience.”
Regardless, Reilly expressed pride in how his students take their roles seriously, “especially since many underestimate them for being young and all. I give the kids much credit for their work. So, if you come to this production, you’ll have a really great time. It’s made to thrill and be fun and I believe the quality of this production reflects on the hard work my students have put in.”