Murder mystery to raise money for Gresham arts department
'What Dies in Vegas' dessert theater offers drinks, cakes, comedy
To prepare for his role as emcee of the Tropicana Night Club and Casino in Las Vegas, D.J. Wilson, 17, a junior at Gresham High School, studied that master thespian and king of drama, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
That's right, Wilson studied the former Republican presidential hopeful - 'or what's left of him' - to see how he moved on stage.
'He has this kind of swagger, this smile and laugh,' Wilson says, adding he also studied Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert for inspiration. Both men helped him figure out how to portray his character, Wilson says, noting the emcee is 'very patriotic and over the top' and that his 'main goal is keep the show going.'
Wilson is one of several Gresham High students set to take the stage Saturday, Feb. 25, for 'What Dies in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!' an original dessert theater production and the Theatre Arts Department's chief fundraiser this year.
Coffee and juice will be available at patrons' tables and dessert is set out during intermission.
Wilson says his character oversees the mayhem that ensues when three murders are investigated.
'Eventually, all of us have a couple of mental breakdowns in the show, but it all works out in the end - for most of us.'
Logan Rekdahl, 17, a senior, wrote the play his fellow students will perform.
'I thought, why not write a murder mystery?' he says, adding it's a comedy, not a depressing tragedy. He adds that unlike most playwrights, he waited to see who auditioned for the play before he wrote it.
'I wrote the characters for the actors from the school,' he says.
One of those characters is Forrest Davis, 17, a junior, who plays a detective.
'I'm in like your average beige trench coat and fedora,' he says.
He's been an actor and stage crewmember over the years at Gresham, he says.
'When I'm backstage, I'm not nervous at all, ever,' he says, noting he can get butterflies when he's in front of a crowd.
'Onstage it's so rewarding to hear the audience clap for you,' he adds.
When he's not acting, he's often called upon to operate lights for school plays, Davis says, adding audiences don't usually think about what it takes to illuminate a production properly.
'They won't appreciate lights if they're right,' he says. 'But if they're wrong, everybody notices.'
A loving marriage
Ali Sparks, 18, a senior, plays Rosa Tenpenny, the jealous wife of the casino owner who is 'cheating with everybody,' she says.
She adds that she studied Sharon Stone's character Ginger in the 1995 film 'Casino' to create her character, and watched 'Real Housewives of New Jersey' for inspiration as well.
'I actually like her,' Sparks says of Rosa. 'I get to slap my husband multiple times, and it's a lot of fun.'
Not that she would actually go into a marriage so open-handed, so to speak.
'It's kind of like an escape,' she says. 'I can be somebody who I never would be. I won't be slapping my husband!'
If you go
WHAT: 'What Dies in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!'
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. pre-show, 7 p.m. show Saturday, Feb. 25
WHERE: Gresham High School cafeteria, 1200 N. Main Ave.
COST: $15, includes dessert, drink and show
INFO: 503-674-5516, ghsdrama.yolasite.com