Theater Department to present childhood classic Willy Wonka

Candy covers the room, chocolate rivers flow and people eat from edible grass and candy trees. This is Wonka Land.

The theater department is preparing for its newest production, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. The play will run at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-17 and during the day Nov. 19-20 for the elementary schools in the Black Box Theater. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults.

“We’re bringing in elementary school audiences [to watch Willy Wonka] because we really want to do something special for the kids in the community,” theater teacher Rachael Gomez said. “We’d like that to become some type of trademark for us.”

Freshman Ananya Roy will perform as an Oompa Loompa and work backstage.

“I’m excited to hang out with my friends at the rehearsals and see the audiences’ reaction to the Oompa Loompas,” Ananya said. “When you see the play and the work you put into it, it’s a proud moment.”

Almost all the freshmen who are in the play were cast as Candy Kids or Oompa Loompas, except for Jack Graham, who got the part of Charlie, and Zach Freeman, cast as Mr. Salt.

“I was really excited to get one of the main roles,” Zach said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping for it. [I’m looking forward to] being a part of the play.”

Jack’s love for acting started in fifth grade when he was the narrator for his English class’s play Hamlet.

“Back in fifth grade, we did a unique rendition of Hamlet,” Jack said. “I was cast as the zany, offbeat ‘explainer,’ an oddball who explained the stuff that was happening in a way easy to understand for fifth graders. I made a lot of people laugh, and I loved it. Lots of people said I was their favorite character. I’ve loved acting since.”

At first senior Mark Gorthey, cast as Willy Wonka, only acted because his mom put him in classes, but over the years he has grown to love it.

“I wasn’t really interested at first,” Mark said. “But I guess it stuck on me. I played imaginary games as a kid and so the idea of acting is the closest I get to that.”

One of the reasons Mark loves acting is the joy he can bring to others through it.

“[I look forward to] seeing the reactions of the kids – how they interpret the play and what they enjoy about it,” Mark said. “I think entertaining kids is always the most fun of acting.”

Willy Wonka isn’t the first production of the year: The Zombie Experiment was Oct. 25, 26 and 30 in the Black Box Theater. During The Zombie Experiment audience members were able to dress up and be a zombie for the night while people judged their costumes.

Also, the drama department produced Noises Off in the Black Box Theater Oct. 4-6, which was Gomez’s first production as the theater director. It is a play about the play Nothing On, in which everything goes wrong. Noises Off shows what happens before the play, backstage during the play and the actual play as it falls apart. The theater department experienced minor setbacks while preparing for the complicated play. According to Gomez, the play relied on the set, but it wasn’t ready until opening night. In addition, the air conditioner was broken.

“The actors and the audience were overheated so it was really hard on everybody,” Gomez said. “We didn’t realize something like that would make a difference, but in a show like this, energy is required from everybody.”

Even though some of the actors were sweating through their shirts, they still kept up their energy and didn’t break character.

“I think that’s one of the many things that makes Noises Off such a great play as opposed to a movie, because during the play, real Noises Off-type things were happening,” Gomez said. “All the little things they naturally mess up on add to the mistakes they’re trying to make.”

The script requires the actors to work as a team, improving some parts of the play. Senior John Austin, who played the director, was the main person to correct the mistakes.

“Opening night they actually redirected the play,” Gomez said. “Someone came in early so John Austin, being the director, had to fix it. If anything happened during the show where the scene got off, he was to stop it and put it back on track.”

Gomez is excited to be here at Westlake working in the drama department and thinks her first play here went well.

“If you’re gonna start off, you start off with a bang,” Gomez said.