Actors on stage

A play—or plays rather—wrapped within a play and seasoned with reality, “Just Another High
School Play,” performed by the Cleveland Drama Club in the school auditorium this weekend, spoofs nearly every angle of the typical high school production with a dose of theater history and improvisation thrown in for good measure.

With characters playing themselves and the setting Cleveland High School, a group of actors, who have apparently been abandoned by their drama teacher Madeline Strenke, played by CHS English teacher Madeline Strenke, must fend for themselves opening night in front of a live audience.

Strenke has left them hanging because no one has been showing up to rehearsals and no one is quite sure what they are supposed to do. The student assistant director, funny man Carter Kern, played by Carter Kern, and the strait-laced stage manager, Madysen Seely, also played by herself, step in, find a box of scripts, which they pass out to the cast (above), and try to throw something together.

“Both Madysen and Carter have acting experience, and it was a little bit type casting,” said Strenke, who really is the play’s director. “Madysen is a rule follower; she likes to do things the right way. Carter is a natural fit for the ham.”

What follows, with Seely and Kern stepping in intermittently, is a boisterous romp of physical comedy, gags, and satirical re-writings of works, from William Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams, from Greek drama to melodrama, from the “God bless us everyone” Tiny Tim to the “Tip toe through the tulips” Tiny Tim until Strenke appears deus ex machina to wrap up the rollicking performance. 

A group of sophomores approached Strenke during homecoming week requesting she work with them on a spring play. They looked at scripts in January.

Absurd, avant-garde, surreal, “Just Another High School Play” is above all a comedy, said Strenke, who is directing a play for her first time, and that was its main appeal. She also liked the play because it required only 10 actors and props, which paraprofessional Joanne Starke assembled. It didn’t require a set.

“We don’t have a lot of students in our drama club, and I knew for a first-time director it would be easier to jump in, and it was really funny.”

Written by Bryan Starchman, the work reflects his worst nightmares as a director. Each character is based on one of his former students, Strenke said.

Also acting in the play are announcer Ariel Murphy, who also had the role of student director, and, with multiple parts, Liviana Lee, Jackson Bowen, Sierra McCabe, Sam Baker, Allison Cink, Elijah Mons, Kayla Hoffmann, Neenah Lassiter, August Keltgen, Evie Remiger, Laura Nauman and Koralie Edwards.

Murphy also runs the lights, Mollie Bowman is in charge of the sound, and Olivia Reinhardt, Evelyn Keltgen and Emily Griffiths serve on the crew.

While some of its allusions might not have been grasped 100 percent, Friday’s performance evoked peals of laughter.  

Tonight (Saturday) is the final performance. The curtain opens at 7:00.

Koralie Edwards, Samantha Baker, Kayla Hoffmann and Elijah Mons

Carter Kern, Elijah Mons, Neenah Lassiter, August Keltgen, Liviana Lee, Sierra McCabe and Jackson Bowen

Carter Kern breaks the imaginary wall between stage and audience.

Kayla Hoffmann announces the puppet play.

Appearing as herself in the final scene, director Madeline Strenke had a role in the play.

Madysen Seely and Carter Kern answer “audience” questions.

Allison Cink, Koralie Edwards, Kayla Hoffmann and Evie Remiger

Elijah Mons, August Keltgen and Jackson Bowen in “Little Men”

Evie Remiger as Tiny Tim

Neenah Lassiter and Elijah Mons as rap singers

Laura Nauman as Tom Jones

“Romeo and Juliet” had a modern twist. The puppeteers are Koralie Edwards and Kayla Hoffmann.

Crew members Olivia Reinhardt and Evelyn Keltgen

Props mistress Joanne Starke, student director Ariel Murphy and director Madeline Strenke