A cranky Army general, a charming ditz, a pill-abdicated wife of a senator, a know-it-all professor and a whole cast full of other kooky, eccentric characters are coming to Voorhees, when on Saturday, Feb. 21, the Voorhees Theatre Company’s student board, in association with the Voorhees Theatre company, present “The Murderous Mansion of Mr. Uno.”
Produced and performed entirely by the high school-aged students of the Voorhees Theatre Company’s student board, “The Murderous Mansion of Mr. Uno” is a murder mystery comedy that finds the mysterious Mr. Uno dying (multiple times) after inviting several eccentric guests to his mansion.
As the guests start dying as well, those who remain have to find the killer before it’s too late, with the identity of the assailant decided by audience ballot during the play’s intermission, and one of the show’s multiple endings played out as a result.
With students directing and filling the cast of the show, co-directors Emily Frantz, 17, and Alexis Schmidt, 18, both of Voorhees, said the cast can’t even get through three pages without themselves laughing.
“It’s a pretty cool experience because we got to choose the show, we have the budget to do whatever we want, we’re in charge of costumes, props, everything — it’s interesting,” Frantz said. “It’s really fun to work with your peers.”
Schmidt said it was her and Frantz’s first time directing instead of acting, so they were now gaining an appreciation for everything it takes for people their age to come together and put on a show without the help of adults.
“We were always on stage, so we never really saw what happened backstage, and it’s actually a lot of work,” Schmidt said. “It’s fun, it’s something different.”
Frantz also described how working with people her own age makes the production a more collaborative process, as the performers are more willing to make and take suggestions.
“It’s nice to see that the actors care enough to want to make a change, and the back and forth between us, we’re very open to suggestions and usually we take them,” she said.
Just one of the those performers affected by an on-the-fly change in the script is 15-year-old Danya Trommer of Cherry Hill, who plays Mrs. Tarragon, the pill-addicted wife of a senator.
Trommer was originally set to interact with a particular character in one of the endings, but because of another performer’s suggestion, that character she would have interacted with will now be dead.
She said it can be bit chaotic sometimes to practice like that, but it also adds to the fun of the experience because, while like there can be a lack of focus, the group always pulls things together.
“It feels like we can definitely get our ideas out there more because we’re not intimidated by our directors and stuff because it feels more like a group of friend than they are our supreme leaders,” Trommer said. “We do have free rein more and we can definitely suggest more things.”
Ryan Connelly, 17 of Voorhees, who has the role of Professor Beasly, said he thought it was “awesome” that a group of people entirely his age have the ability to do something of the show’s caliber, and agreed that feeling free to give so much input to his cast-mates and directors definitely added to the experience.
“Most directors I work with don’t particularly like that feedback that we give them, so having two great directors like Alexis and Emily, who really want you to give them your own kind of advice, is wonderful,” he said.
Schmidt and Frantz said the cooperative attitude of their cast, like Connelly’s, is just one of the reasons why they think the show will impress.
“I say come because it shows how the youth care about the organization and how theater is still alive,” Schmidt said.
“The Murderous Mansion of Mr. Uno” will be performed on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at Kresson Elementary School, 7 School Lane. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 and includes dinner. More information can be found at www.voorheestheatre.org or by calling (856) 206–3554.