Soldotna High School students, from left to right, junior Sarah Shoemaker, sophomore Sierra Ball, sophomore Jessica Thomas and freshman Amanda Norris rehearse a scene from "Sarah Sydney Takes Hollywood By Storm," a play by drama instructor Mike Druce about a teen's drive for stardom.
Photo by John Hult
Hollywood’s lush hills lure hundreds of young people from locales large and small every week, and each new crop hopes for one thing: a shot at stardom.
“Sarah Sydney Takes Hollywood By Storm,” a new play by Soldotna High School drama instructor Mike Druce, explores the subject of the lust for stardom by focusing on one teen’s dreams of the big time.
According to Druce, the idea for the play grew out his interest in “The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wilde,” a play by Paul Zindel about a bored New York housewife who disappears into a movie-based fantasy world.
Shoemaker, summons alter ego by talking to a mirror.
Photo by John Hult
Druce had hoped to stage a production of the musical comedy in 2004, but wasn’t sure he’d have enough students to make the large-scale play work.
Druce began writing the outline for “Sarah” then, in hopes of getting across some of the ideas in his chosen play on a smaller-scale. When he found there were enough student actors for “Mildred,” “Sarah” was tabled.
“I thought, there will be some point in the future when this will be right,” Druce said.
This year, the time was right. Druce often holds auditions before choosing the play to be performed, and the young cast auditioning for this spring’s show fit well into the light-hearted subject matter mined in “Sarah.”
Shoemaker, who plays Sarah, talks to her alter-ego, played by Sierra Bell.
Photo by John Hult
“It’s pretty simple to do, with pretty easy lines for kids to get their feet wet. It’s just really well-suited for inexperienced kids.”
The story was different by now, too.
“This has really become something along the lines of ‘American Idol,’ where you’re dealing with young people and the opportunity to make it big. I wanted to deal with that kid who really wants to make it big.”
That kid is Sarah, a high school drama student who auditions for an “American Idol” style show, along with a school production of “The Wizard of Oz” and a music video to be shot in the school’s auditorium with a pop star named Lance Rock.
Sarah Shoemaker, a Soldotna High School junior, plays the star-hungry Sarah Sydney.
Sydney’s devotion to the pursuit of stardom, despite a string of setbacks, was one of the things that drew Shoemaker to the part.
“She’s just endearing,” Shoemaker said. “With all these things she goes through, she just keeps chugging along, that’s really just an inspiration.”
Shoemaker has some of the same goals as the character she plays.
“I think she’s really close to home, because I sort of wanna make it big,” Shoemaker said.
Druce said he often sees talented students come through his drama program with big dreams, but says stardom is less important in the long run than the confidence students take from learning to act.
“If kids go on and be big stars, that’s great, but the reality is, I’ve been teaching for 35 years, and I’ve yet to have that kid become a big star,” Druce said. “It’s really to give them communication skills on stage, leadership, self-confidence, things like that.”
That’s not to say SoHi students couldn’t make it, though. The students in “Sarah Sydney Takes Hollywood By Storm” work hard, he said, doing their own choreography for the final dance number, which will be performed to Mandy Moore’s song “Candy.” The students take at least two hours out of their day to rehearse, and Shoemaker goes to dance practice after play practice.
“Sarah’s multitalented. She can do it all.”
Druce’s advice for those who really want to make it big is an oft-repeated mantra of drama teachers and acting coaches worldwide: keep plugging away.
“There’s a good chance you’re not gonna get the part. You’ve gotta be prepared for that. The way you overcome that is to keep coming back. Volunteer to do stage work, to paint, to be a grunt. Just audition, and if you get turned down, audition again.”
“Sarah Sydney Takes Hollywood By Storm” runs at 7:30 p.m. from March 30 through April 1 at Soldotna High School Auditorium. Tickets are $5.
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