SE theater department sees dead people. They play them too.
The play “Dead Man’s Cellphone” will open from Nov. 15-17. It centers on Jean, played by SE student Isara Al-Hilo, dealing with the aftermath of discovering a dead man next to her.
“A man dies. But his phone continues to ring,” Director Drew Hampton said. “Does that keep him alive? And what zany realities might it create for those that truly are living?”
The play had several pull-factors for Hampton that led him to select it.
“It checks a lot of boxes for us: cast-able with our students, appropriately challenging and timely themes to name a few,” Hampton said. “It’s also a pleasantly quirky show I’ve had on my ‘want to direct’ list for a while.”
In their past productions, certain plays would demand actors to take several parts. Having a larger cast for “Dead Man’s Cellphone” eliminates the struggle of switching between roles, but SE student Haleigh Ferguson acknowledged there are still struggles.
“[Al-Hilo] has a lot of dialogue with different people,” Ferguson said. “I know that can be difficult knowing how to talk to different characters.”
Hampton looks forward to the audience seeing the visuals of the show.
“More than most shows I’ve directed, this is a fairly busy and creative technical production,” Hampton said. “The script allows for a lot of interpretation of what things look like and sound like, as well as how the space is used. With all the spectacle we have in store, this may be one of the most visually memorable productions our department has created.”
SE student Angelica Valdez stepped out of her comfort zone to play Hermia, the dead man’s widow.
“Compared to the other characters, she’s very loud. She’s very prideful. She cares a lot about herself,” she said. “I’m a very shy person. I’m not whisper-loud but I’m very low-toned so this character was kind of hard for me. A lot of my notes were ‘don’t be me,’ ‘don’t be Angie,’ which is very quiet and shy.”
“Dead Man’s Cellphone” is the first play Valdez acted in. She was in two of Hampton’s classes and he says has enjoyed watching her growth as an actor.
“Over time, and especially in this production process, I’ve seen her grow in her confidence,” Hampton said. “She’s always been talented and focused, and it’s been lovely to see her confidence begin to catch up.”
It was difficult for Al-Hilo to sum up the theme of the play in just one word. However, she hopes the audience can witness how each character moves through grief.
“There’s a lot of themes,” Al-Hilo said. “Grief in a way. It kind of takes the story of how each character goes through it, and Jean trying to make the best of all – trying to help them all with their own way of grieving.”