Cheney Free Press -



'Leading Ladies' proves a challenge on CHS small stage


John McCallum

Left to right: Cody Tapia as Jack/Stephanie, Meghan Heritage as Aunt Florence and Clayton Beard as Leo/Maxine, rehearse a scene from the Cheney High School Drama Club's production of "Leading Ladies," which ends its run this Saturday.

The storyline for the Cheney High School Drama Club's production of "Leading Ladies" is pretty simple: Two hard-luck Shakespearean actors try to claim a portion of an older ailing woman's fortune by posing as two long-lost nephews - only to learn the nephews are actually nieces.

If that sounds a bit confusing and complicated, it might not be nearly so much as the club's first drama produced away from the large stage in the Fisher Building auditorium and on the much smaller stage at the high school's Little Theatre.

"This definitely wasn't a stage built for a huge production, but we made it work," co-director, senior Sarah Corean, said.

The surplusing and subsequent attempts to sell the nearly 85-year-old former high school, middle school and administrative building last summer forced the drama club to find new digs to stage productions. Fortunately they had those in the Little Theatre, but it took some adaptation.

For starters, the Little Theatre doesn't have nearly the square footage backstage for props and storage the Fisher Building had. Some of the stage furniture from Fisher was too big to be stored at the high school, so it was stored elsewhere in the district or given away.

That left the club without some needed pieces for the production. Fortunately, drama club adviser and Eastern Washington University student Skyla Yager was able to arrange to borrow appropriate furniture from the university Theatre Department.

"We didn't know if they would have anything but we went there and they had our back," Yager said.

Costumes were another issue. Some had to be discarded or given away, but the club was able to pick up replacements through about $500 in donations.

Again, the Little Theatre's backstage was too small to store the costumes, so space was found in what student technical director, senior Fletcher Aukerman, called "Hal-Mart," an attic space above the high school teachers' area.

"Most people in school don't know about it," Aukerman said. "It's our secret area."

Building the set was also a challenge, Aukerman said, as the production is designed to be performed on a larger stage. To do that took a bit of customizing, utilizing some space in front of the stage.

Other aspects of turning the Little Theatre into a stage production venue didn't materialize until after auditions and rehearsals began in mid- to late-February. Yager's production assistant, 2009 CHS grad Quinn Schwendiman, said electronic components such as sound and light control boards and lighting rigging weren't installed until several weeks ago.

"The lights actually came from Fisher," he said.

Then there was the challenge of blocking out actors movements on stage.

Fortunately, they had a pro in that department in Corean, who has been with the club since she was a freshman, and had actually done some small skits on the Little Theatre stage.

Despite the challenges, everything came together for their opening weekend two weeks ago. Set in York, Penn., in 1958, "Leading Ladies" centers on the foibles of actors Leo Clark, played by sophomore Clayton Beard, and Jack Gable, played by senior Cody Tapia.

The pair learns that an ailing older woman, Florence, played by senior Meghan Heritage, is searching for Max and Steve, her sister's children in order to include them in her inheritance.

Seeking to cash in on some of the $2 million, the duo set out to pose as the nephews, only to learn that "Max" and "Steve" are actually short for "Maxine" and Stephanie," Florence's nieces.

Undaunted, Leo and Jack proceed, posing in drag as the two nieces, and subsequently falling for another niece, Meg, and Florence's part-time aide Audrey.

"There's lots of confusion and broken hearts," Corean said.

CHS Drama Club's final performance of "Leading Ladies" is Saturday, May 31, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the high school's Little Theatre. Tickets are $3 for students with ASB card, $5 for adults and students without ASB card. Children and seniors get in free.

John McCallum can be reached at


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