The comedic play performed by Woodburn High School grapples with fear of irrelevancy

JULIA COMNES - (From left) Conner Williams, Edgar Nevarez and Sam Torres are among the Woodburn High School student actors in "Moon Over Buffalo," a comedic play about aging actors who fear irrelevancy.Woodburn High School will premiere its rendition of the comedic play "Moon Over Buffalo" this Friday.

The play is the second of three shows in the school's 2017-18 theater season, which is themed "standing in the face of fear." All three plays performed this school year feature characters who live bravely despite opposition. The school's fall production of "Fiddler on the Roof" was the first play of the season, and the spring play will be an original piece titled "Sin Miedo" ("Without Fear") that follows a Woodburn family in 2016.

"Moon Over Buffalo," a madcap comedy written by Ken Ludwig, is set in 1953 and centers on characters George and Charlotte Hay. Once a showbiz power couple who performed in the greatest venues around the world, they now fear they are washed-up actors past their prime, stuck performing in a small theater in Buffalo, New York.

That all might change when the famous director Frank Capra is rumored to attend their latest matinee performance with the possibility of a big movie contract to follow. Of course, everything that could go wrong goes delightfully awry.

Caleb Thurston, a Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy theater teacher who is directing the play, said the play is more lighthearted than other productions the school has recently put on.

"It's very, very fun," Thurston said. "We haven't done something that's just totally light in a long time."

Thurston sa id the play, which premiered on Broadway in 1995 and marked the return of actress Carol Burnett to the stage following a long absence, fits into the season's theme because its main characters fear irrelevancy.

"They're afraid that they're old news," Thurston said of the main characters. "They have conversations about, 'Are we failures, are we in the past.'"

WACA sophomore Anna Koffler, who stars as Charlotte Hay, echoed that sentiment.

"Their fear in this case, I think, is being forgotten," Koffler said. "The main characters Charlotte and George Hay want to be famous and want people to know them and recognize them. I think that's just a comfort for them, because they've been actors their whole lives. And to have it all dwindle down and be in a shabby theater where not many people know them, it's just different. It's out of their comfort zone."

The characters eventually make a discovery about themselves, Thurston said.

"In a very goofy way, through lots of things going wrong, they discover that maybe life isn't about (being famous)," he said. "They can still have fun, they can still make an impact even when they're older."

And while Thurston said the play will appeal to a wide audience, he said it will be especially enjoyable for lovers of old Hollywood.

"There's so many references to the '50s and old Hollywood culture," he said. "So if you're into that, there's a lot of in-jokes that are really fun."

The production features eight student actors, including Koffler, Edgar Nevarez as George, Fatima Dominguez as Roz, Zimri Torres as Howard, Conner Williams as Paul, Evelyn Ramirez as Ethel, Sam Torres as Richard and Tanis Rees as Eileen.

The show runs for two weekends (Friday to Saturday): Feb. 9-10 and 16-17, all starting at 7 p.m. All performances will take place at the Woodburn High School lectorium. Tickets are $5 for general admission and can be purchased from the box office starting 30 minutes before each performance.

For more information or for group seating reservations, contact Thurston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-980-6275.

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