Nature Coast Technical High School drama teacher Lori Erickson has never shied away from allowing her students the opportunity to deepen their thespian skills.
Sure, she has paid homage to the high school musical tradition with productions of West Side Story, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown and Godspell. But there have also been shows that strayed from the boundaries of secondary school theater, including A Shayna Maidel, Spoon River Anthology and Blood Wedding, all of which require a more refined effort from the actors.
Such is the approach for the production of You Can't Take It With You, the 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, which runs Thursday through March 21 at the school's Black Box Theater.
For Erickson, the screwball comedy classic provided the perfect vehicle to allow her young actors a chance to explore the reaches of their characters while having a little fun.
"We've always considered ourselves to be an educational theater," Erickson said. "Doing challenging material, especially ensemble theater, requires a maturity level to bring out the nuances of the entire cast. I want them to feed off each other's characters and use that to enhance their own roles."
The play, which revolves around a group of wacky family members who try their best to see the world as its more rational counterparts, features an 18-member cast made up of experienced student actors as well as newcomers to the stage. Included in the mix are three faculty members.
Freshman Colton Lawver, who plays the eccentric tax-dodging patriarch Martin Vanderhoff, said getting to know how to portray a character three times his age took some time.
"The dialogue is very sophisticated, so you can't fake it," he said. "A lot of the humor comes from the way he deals with other characters around him, so I put a lot of emphasis on trying to explore how he might react to them in real life."
For senior Angelica Bertone, who portrays Vanderhoff's granddaughter, Alice, the play is a lot faster moving than she first envisioned.
"There are times when we're all on stage that it gets a little hectic," she said. "I've been in productions where I had to do a lot of dancing, but this was different. If you aren't concentrating to the max, you're going to miss something. Then it gets real hectic to try and catch up."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.