By Paige Owens
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Last semester, Penn State New Kensington’s Drama Club put on a performance of “Beyond Therapy” in late Nov. with freshmen, Jon McCabe and Laura Gensamer, leading the cast.
This spring semester, the Drama Club held open auditions in Jan. for a production of “Into the Woods” that took place on April, 16, 17, and 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Forum Theatre at Penn State New Kensington. Director Bill Mitas had explained earlier in the semester that allowing the community to audition for the production would give his students a chance to work with seasoned professionals and that a production as large as “Into the Woods” would need a big cast.
Klase Danko, one of several actors to audition, graduated from the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Acting and a minor in Broadcasting. “’Into the Woods’ is my third show with Penn State New Kensington,” Danko said.
“My sister is a student at Penn State and before transferring to University Park, she attended New Kensington. In the fall of 2013, she was cast in Batboy the Musical for PSNK. Due to some complications, they needed someone to come in and play Meredith Parker, the mother role in the show. My sister told Bill Mitas that I was available and I was offered the role.”
Danko explained that she had received an email to come to the open auditions and then later spoke to Mitas on the phone about attending auditions. After auditioning, Danko was cast as the Baker’s wife, the female lead of the musical.
Gensamer, who was involved in theatre throughout high school at North Hills, was enthusiastic about her multiple characters and the turn out the musical generated this semester.
I played the narrator, who was basically the moderator between the audience and the characters,” Gensamer said. “I basically gave an overview of each scene and gave some information in the scenes that helped progress the story. I also played the mysterious man who turns out to be the Baker’s father, who was played by Matthew Mlynarski. He often comes into the scene to help out the characters, but no one really knows why he’s there.”
After the final production on Saturday night, Gensamer found out that she is to be awarded “Best Performer” of Penn State New Kensington. She will receive her award on May 1.
Throughout preparation for “Into the Woods,” Mitas’ Production Practicum course put in a lot of hard work and dedication especially in the last month before the production. Senior Information Science Technology major, Balaja Rajan, explained that it was his first time working in theatre and how much he enjoyed the experience. Rajun, along with the rest of the Production Practicum course, were responsible for making the props, set, and running the sound board for the play.
“’Into the Woods’ was a great choice for a musical,” Rajun said. “It was my first experience doing anything like this and it was a good experience for me. A lot of people came out to see the performance and I think the play raised a lot of money for the Drama Club.”
Preparing for “Into the Woods” was not an easy production to accomplish or to prepare for. Students involved in the musical had to attend rehearsals Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings for the first couple of months. However, as the performance dates approached, rehearsals became lengthier and more frequent in order to perfect the performance.
Gensamer expressed her concern that there were no rehearsals with the piano until the Sunday before opening night, and the cast was not able to rehearse with the orchestra until the Monday before opening night. However, the opening performance brought in an almost full audience of students, family, friends, and faculty to support the cast.
At the Friday evening performance, the cast and crew experienced a technical difficulty involving pre-recorded sound that was meant to be played in a scene featuring the Giant.
“There was a Giant voice that was meant to play in a particular scene, and in the middle of the scene right as the recording was supposed to play, the software crashed out of nowhere,” Rajun explained. “One of the other members on the sound and light crew started yelling out the Giant’s voice, so we were able to fix that issue and cover it up.”
After several months of hard work, hours of rehearsal, and dedication, the Penn State New Kensington Drama Club were able to put on an outstanding performance of “Into the Woods.” The Drama Club will soon decide next semester’s play and will hold auditions sometime in September.