Harris and Sandy drama students bid adieu to the 'cafegymatorium' performance space
by: Lisa Andersen, The latest Sandy HIgh production,

For 29 years, Chris Harris and the Sandy High drama department have called the 'cafegymatorium' home.

Harris and his students will take their final bows on their longtime stage with 'My Very Own Story,' runs 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

' 'The Drowsy Chaperone' (the fall production) was risqué, but this is more of children's theater,' Harris said. 'It's like Disney for adults.'

When three storytellers, Peter, Paul and Percy, are triple booked, they spontaneously combine their Victorian, medieval and contemporary tales into one night of entertainment.

After some initial acrimony, Percy wins and tells his story - a Victorian yarn featuring Paul, who has hijacked the leading role. Peter then continues the unresolved fable, only to discover Percy appearing in it.

Peter then appears in Paul's Gothic story, which is an extension of Peter's tale set in the 1940s.

Eventually, their narratives converge to 'pin the tale on the donkey,' the unifying character among the stories.

'It's like we're doing three different plays within the play,' Harris said, adding that a production with three different eras has created a Herculean effort for costumers Denise Boitano and Loretta Murray.

It also is technically complicated for the cast and crew. Harris said he appreciates that the play challenges students to juggle several roles.

In addition, the sound cues are numerous, and crew members took five hours to program one set of lights surrounding the stage.

'It's pretty simplistic as it's a children's story, but it's nonchronological and amazing how few discrepancies there are among the stories,' said Joey Ten Eyck, a senior in the cast. 'There's lots of movement, and the show gets interrupted by real life and comical elements.'

Ayckbourn, the playwright, has written 74 full-length plays, with 'My Very Own Story' having premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in North Yorkshire, England, in 1991.

After watching the world premiere in 1991, Robin Thornber reviewed the play as 'deliciously lighthearted fun embellished with wittily allusive pastiche of a range of literary styles as a Victorian chiller, a suburban romance and a medieval morality tale of sorcery all interlock.'

Jill Maples, another senior cast member, said the three shows are 'tied together, all different and all fun, with Ayckbourn teasing the audience.'

For senior Brett Ott, working with underclassmen and watching them prepare to take the helm has been rewarding.

'You see this glimmer of hope,' Ott said. 'I'm comfortable with them filling our shoes.'

Harris and younger Sandy High actors have sparkling new quarters awaiting them next year at the new high school, complete with seating for more than 500 and a marquee, but they'll finish off this year with some sentimental attachment to their longtime stage.

'It's been my playpen,' Harris said of the cafegymatorium. 'It's intimate, and we've adapted to it.'

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