“Well folks, we’ve come to the end of the road. The past two months of preparation and dedication all come down to this. You all have not only become castmates, but a close-knit group of friends. To be able to give an audience the gift of laughter is truly a talent and a gift. So, as they say in showbiz, go out there and break a leg!” ~ Rev. Jay Shaffer
On April 19 and 20, I was a part of Shanskville High School Drama Club’s production of “Medium Rare.” The comedy/farce is written by Steve Hogue, and directed by Reverend Jay Shaffer.
Terese Triol was the Assistant Director, with lighting and sound by Adam Shaffer. Eyvonne Shaffer took charge of all costumes and props. Hannah Wood was Stage Manager, and Courtney Pryal was the Chairwoman of Ticket Sales and Advertising. The wonderful set was designed by Jay Shaffer and Ed Denner. The Drama Club also received outside help with hair and makeup from Jessica Younkin, Kaylin Trent, and Chris Long. Shanksville’s own Natalie Custer designed the programs that attendees received.
The play follows Harry and Bunny Polk (Bernie Fochtman & Karianne Sulkowski, respectively) as they purchase a house from Harvey and Lucinda Jolley (Cody Lenart & Marissa Denner). What the Polks don’t know is that the Jolley’s grandmother, Nina Smeltenmelter (Kylie Shober) comes with the house! Nina enters the living room of the house when Harry is napping, and replies to Bunny when she says that the hamburgers for dinner are almost ready, and she says, “Well make mine medium rare!”
Harry Polk simply cannot believe the predicament he has gotten himself into. He wants Nina to leave, however his wife persuades him to allow Nina to stay, just until other arrangements can be made. As the play progresses, we meet Maynard Crock (Jacob Meager), who is a caller of sorts to Nina. Their relationship is often rocky, but the two would be lost without each other. Harry doesn’t exactly get along with Maynard, and he struggles to be civil to the elderly man who often barges into the Polk’s household.
As Act II begins, we meet the Early Birds, a group of elderly women who meet weekly with Nina in the Polk house to discuss “official club business.” President Irma Flipsnippy (played by myself) is a rather strict elderly lady, and she isn’t afraid to keep the club members in check with her beloved gavel!
Other Early Birds include the Gooferloose sisters, Fanny and Zelda (Kelsey Foor & Kennedy Hanes.) Fanny is the Early Bird Club Secretary, and Zelda is the scatter-brained Treasurer. Hertha Broadcrunch (Jenna Snyder) is the group’s sergeant-at-arms and is feared by many of the other Early Birds. Lumanda Mushings is the club’s simple and shy vice-president, and her conduct as former treasurer is often compared to Zelda’s poor performances. Twinkles Oopser (Tara Duppstadt) is half-blind, and is the only one who can offer assistance to Maynard when he gets into trouble with Irma later on in Act II. The final member of the Early Birds is Petunia Hipbottom (Destiny Parry), who is a mute but reliable member of the club.
As the Club’s meeting is called to order bright and early one morning, the women use Buddy, a stuffed (formerly live) bird and the Club’s mascot, to make executive decisions regarding the date of certain events. Buddy is revered by all members, and is Twinkles’ precious “pet.” The meeting is interrupted by Maynard, who was previously thrown out of the Jolley’s house and forgot his cane. Nina persuades Irma to let him look for his cane, and Irma complies.
As she gets back to business, she is completely caught off guard and is infuriated when Maynard lifts up her skirt to look for his cane! She promptly hits him on the back with her gavel, causing Maynard’s back to lock up, leaving him stuck on the floor on all fours. Nina, Twinkles, Zelda, and Fanny all try to help Maynard unlock his back, to no avail. Nina takes him to a chiropractor later on to heal his back, but not before Maynard runs out of the Polk household when Harry wakes up and discovers him in his bedroom.
Harry is shocked to find the Early Birds in his living room, and raises such a ruckus that Irma has Hertha forcibly remove him from the meeting. Nina convinces Hertha to let him go, and then Harry introduces the women to a friendly little game called “Giant Whisk.” They are all quite confused when Harry comes out of the kitchen holding a broom, and (comedic) chaos ensues when Harry chases all of the women out of his house with the broom.
After the Early Birds leave, we meet Cora Prim (Kori Smith), a secretary who works for Harry. Cora walks in on Harry hopping back and forth on one leg, performing the Early Bird sign-out call. Cora awkwardly leaves the set, and the scene ends.
Act III opens with Harry and Bunny discussing what they are going to do with Nina. Bunny finally agrees that she must leave, and Harry goes to tell Nina the news. Much to his surprise, she is missing from the house. Lucinda Jolley enters the scene, and explains why she and her husband left Nina behind when they moved out. She agreed to take Nina back to live with them again, as long as they find her before her flight leaves!
Everyone leaves to look for Nina, and moments after they exit the house, Nina, Maynard, and the Cabbie (Kate Duppstadt) enter. Over the next few scenes, the Polks, Maynard, and Nina play a game of “cat and mouse” because they are both in the same house, but no one realizes it! In one scene in particular, Mayanrd is unable to pay the Cabbie for the taxi fare, so she takes his pants as “security,” leaving him bottomless for the rest of the play! Also, the blind Twinkles Oopser comes back for Buddy, and ends up falling over the railing upstairs, and becomes stranded!
Finally, everyone ends up in the same location. Maynard and Nina are escorted in by Sergeant Blisters (Evan Custer) and Officer Yingling (Cody Lenart) after running into some trouble with the law. After clearing up all of the confusion between the characters, all of the conflicts are resolved. The Cabbie gets her fare, and the policemen rescue Twinkles from her predicament. It is decided that Nina is going to live with Cora Prim, and the Polks will have their house back.
Just before the lights go down, we see Maynard sneaking out of Nina’s former bedroom, grabbing his suitcase, and carrying it back into the room. He knocks over a table though, awakening a napping Harry. Harry cannot believe that Maynard is still around, and is visibly upset. Maynard believes that since he is all alone back in his apartment, he could move in with the Polks! The play draws to a close when Bunny announces that the steaks for dinner are nearly finished, and Maynard calls out, “Well, make mine medium rare!
Being a part of “Medium Rare” has been one of the best experiences of my Junior year of high school thus far. All of the cast members and I bonded over the trials of memorizing pages upon pages of lines, hours of late-night practices, and in the end, we produced a quality comedy play. While at Shanksville there is always room for improvement, we have fun performing for our audiences and learn a lot while doing so. What more could one ask for?