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Albany High School presents: Scapino

November 18, 2011

by Abbey Barker

A production of the play Scapino will be performed by the Albany High School Theatre Ensemble through Sunday at Albany High School.

Directed by Ward Dales, this storyline depicts two young men at odds with their father. They call on the help of their scheming servant, Scapino, to trick their father out of material goods. Relying on slapstick humor and physical comedy, this family friendly production gives the audience an entertaining story to watch unfold, and provides an intellectually stimulating commentary in its underlying message of class warfare.

Flyer for performances of Scapino

Dales, 46, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, has been an educator at Albany High School for seven years. His first production there was  Thornton Wilder’ s, The Skin of Our Teeth.

The “Albany High drama program has always been good, but Ward has kicked it up three notches with his choice of material and his training of superb student actors,” said Paul Lamar, a longtime supporter of the arts and former Pine Hills resident.

One of these student actors is 17-year-old senior and Albany native, Nikolai Mishler, who plays the young lover, Leandro.

“It provided me with laughs in the afternoons,” he said about his preparation for the performance and how it improved his life.  “As an ensemble, we have some pretty amazing pre-show rituals passed down through the years.”

For Mishler and fellow senior, Alejandro Torres, 18, the play serves as one of the final productions of their high school careers. Both regard performing as a great experience in their lives. “I enter a different dimension when I’m performing,” Mishler said.  “It’s not specifically positive or negative, it just is different.”

Torres’, who plays Signor Geronte, said his favorite part of acting  is the audience’s reaction to his performance.

“I know that if I get them to laugh or cry then I’ve given them something to think about long after the curtain comes down, which makes me happy at the end of the day,” Torres said.

Participation in plays serve as more than mere creative outlets and safe zone for free expression – it serve as a powerful force in the education of youth.

“It increases their literacy, it improves their collaborative skills, their investigative skills. It improves every aspect of higher order thinking and it makes them better people because they have to step down into the shoes of other people,” Dales said.  “And they learn tolerance.”

Scapino has long been a work in progress since before the school year even started. The final phase of pre-production came into play during casting the week of September 19.

Dales was pleasantly surprised this season, when the young man playing Scapino appeared in the form of a 10th grader, Qua’von Johnson.

“He walked in the door and had command,” said Dales.  “It was a huge risk, because I didn’t know what his work ethic was, but he was so very right for it.”

Dales helped students learn techniques that at first might have been intimidating, and he taught them that “emotion is in the muscle.”

For some of these student-performers, it may be their last high school production before going off to college next fall. Extracurricular programs such as athletics and the arts enrich the experience by giving students a circle of individuals who shared with them certain memories. After leaving Albany High and their theater program, Dales hopes that his students leave “trusting that it’s okay to know people that aren’t like them.” -30-


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