Gatsby's decadent parties will come to life on stage this weekend, beginning tonight, with the Community Theatre League's student production of "The Great Gatsby." The performance will be offered at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday at the theater, located at 100 W. Third St.
Directed by Jersey Shore Area High School student Gabrielle Antonicelli, the performance is completely student-driven with ninth through twelfth graders acting, putting together the set, props and lighting and running all other aspects of the show.
"Our student production is an annual event and we've been doing them since way back when we were located on Washington Boulevard," said Jacquie Engel, CTL administrative manager and youth programs coordinator. "Often they are two one-act plays and sometimes they are a full-length play or musical. Previous productions have included 'Bye Bye Birdie,' 'Tick Tick Boom,' 'The Crucible' and even some original works like 'Mamma Meatloaf' and 'Woody.' "
RALPH WILSON/SUN-GAZETTE CORRESPONDENT
Pictured are scenes from the Community Theatre League rehearsals for “The Great Gatsby,” a performance completely run by local high school students. The play, directed by Jersey Shore Area High School senior Gabrielle Antonicelli, includes student participants from school districts including Williamsport, South Williamsport, Montoursville, Muncy and Wellsboro. The play opens tonight at 7:30 p.m.
While the play was chosen before Antonicelli began her stint as director, the high school senior is excited to direct the production of this work: "The movie was awesome and it's always been one of my favorite books," she said.
"Gabrielle Antonicelli is doing a great job directing this difficult piece," Engel said. "The other students are very dedicated and respectful to one another. It's truly a student production."
The students in this year's group hail from a range of local school district in addition to Jersey Shore, including Williamsport, South Williamsport, Montoursville, Muncy and even Wellsboro. Antonicelli said her favorite part of directing is "being able to see my own view come to life on stage and being able to work with so many actors."
While Antonicelli has had many opportunities to hone her acting chops over the years, this was her first chance to direct.
"I've been acting and doing school plays and the CTL plays for about five years now," she said. "I've wanted to direct for a while ... It really makes you appreciate what a big project putting together a show is."
The students have spent the past eight weeks rehearsing, on average three times a week. While Antonicelli is running the show, Engel said a number of other students have helped make the production come together.
"The students do everything for this production," she said. "The stage manager is Caroline Coppersmith and her job is to facilitate scene changes, keep track of the staging, and keep the actors on track. The costume designer is Jordan Mondell and she has pulled together all the period costumes from our costume shop here and from other sources. She had organized all the pieces and figured out the costume changes. The cast has helped with set painting and prop collecting and will help with the scene changes during the show. The look of the lighting is decided on by the director but CTL's technical director will program the cues."
The "Gatsby" theme is in keeping with a variety of community events held throughout the past year, Engel noted: "The (James V.) Brown Library has been promoting 'The Great Gatsby' and several locals groups have had events with that theme already this past year. They initially asked us if we could stage a performance and making it the student production seemed a logical choice."
She added, The selection is good for students, I think. The novel is required reading in most high schools so some of the kids are already familiar with it. The show - as well as the book - are graphic at some points but I think the students handle it well. The book has remained relevant over the years and may be even more so these days. With the growing disparity in incomes and the ever-climbing stock market, many have compared the 1920s with today, and 'Gatsby' shows how easily it can all crumble."
Antonicelli, who plans to attend college for journalism and continue her involvement in theater, said she hopes audiences will check out the play because "it's a serious, difficult, challenging production ... and it's completely run by our youth."
Engel said, "The student shows always amaze me. The kids really respect each other and the work. They "police" each other and try not to disappoint each other. That seems to be such a rare thing these days. The process is the same as a regular CTL production but the kids take complete ownership of their show and I can't be more impressed by them."
For more information or or purchase tickets, call the CTL box office at 570-327-1777 or visit www.ctlnet.org.