This year, a group of Ardmore High School students produced a play that takes place in 1947 and was written in the early 1990s. The cultural and generational differences over 77 years can be rather obvious for many who have lived through multiple decades, but the secret revealed in the rural Georgia town in “Second Samuel” — while awkward for some — is a plot twist that would take most every generation by surprise.
The Ardmore High School ACT, part of the speech and debate program under Brian Gunter, has brought home two consecutive one-act play state championships, most recently with “Second Samuel.” The performance in Bixby last month also netted a first-place award for technical direction. Area residents will have a chance to see the production next Wednesday for a single showing at The Goddard Center.
Erin Long, who plays the hairdresser Omaha Nebraska, said some people may watch the show and see a small tragedy, but she feels younger generations will think the story has “just a little twist” that can give way to some self reflection.
Ultimately, cast and crew said the play is about love and acceptance. Long believes that some of the topics in the play are ignored by some in Oklahoma and that the play might help people find the good in others.
“There are things that we all hide because we’re scared to let them out,” she said.
Ivan Almaraz joined the crew later in the production and first learned the story as an audience member. “The first time I saw it was at state, when I was helping them out as stage manager, and it was really crazy because I didn’t know anything about this play,” he said. Once the plot was revealed by the actors, Almaraz knew the story was special.
“From the beginning of rehearsal until four weeks into it, they had not gotten up from a chair,” Gunter said. Actors spent the first month reading through the script and learning more about their characters and the time of the play. Gavin Creeden, who played Mr. Mozel, said he had a hard time understanding some aspects of his character.
“I found it especially hard to play a racist in the time we are in now,” he said. Gunter said he had to work with Creeden to develop a racist tone that wasn’t overbearing and also commented on the wide gap in personalities between Mr. Mozel and the actor. “He loves everybody,” Gunter said of Creeden.
Before joining the cast, Exie Owens worked on the crew and helped other cast members develop their characters. “Who was the president, what were the social classes...what they would do in their specific roles in the town,” she said of her research. If something was not understood by an actor about the time period their character lived, Gunter would give small assignments to teach the history and help the actor better portray their character.
While times in the play may have been relatively prosperous, the cast and crew sometimes found themselves doubting themselves or letting emotions boil over. Cast members talked about rotating character assignments to find the right actor and running rehearsals in a cramped classroom. Much like with any production, the night before a performance meant some cast and crew members were scrambling to finish last-minute details.
“We thought for sure that there was no way we were going to be able to pull this [competition] off,” said Michael Swanson, who portrayed Doc. Many cast members spoke candidly about the stress, challenges and arguments of this particular production, but still laughed with each other while remembering those low points.
“They all created this cohesive family unit,” Gunter said, adding that he believes that bond between cast members translates into the performance. “The fact that they have that relationship in real life helped them be able to establish that type of relationship in the play,” he said.
Nicholas Newman, who portrayed June the undertaker, said this was his first production and even cut hair that was past his shoulders in order to make the production more believable and help the production earn high scores. “I promised myself I’d do new things this year,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a closely knit group who are all trying to achieve something.”
Speaking with a few of the cast and crew members does convey a bond that is similar to those between family members, whether the times are good or bad. Jadin Morris, who was named an All-State 5A cast member along with Tau Jeeai Roberts, shared a line from the play that summarized the experience of many in the play.
“People has a problem when they find out somebody’s got a secret,” Morris recited as his character, B-flat. “Secrets ain’t nothing,” he concluded in a southern drawl.
The Ardmore High School ACT production of “Second Samuel” will be presented at The Goddard Center on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available one hour before the show on a first-come first-serve basis. No late admittance will be allowed once the show begins.