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Comic play looks at teen typecasting

When Chamberlain High School drama teacher James Rayfield overheard one of his acting students say how she hated playing mother roles, he took the words right out of her mouth and turned them into a play.

The one-act play, I Hate Mothers, is a comic look at typecasting that occurs not only in theater but also in real life.

"Basically some of the things it's talking about is how in high school images are so important, and how people get typecast not just in plays but in their lives, too," said Rayfield, who also directs the play.

In high school, those stereotypes often are exaggerated: the beauty queen, the class clown, the star football player.

"Image really isn't as important as we think it is," Rayfield said.

The play has been received so well at local and state theater festivals that it has been selected to be performed at the International Thespian Festival, which starts Monday at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

Rayfield said it is the only one selected from Florida and will be among 30 plays presented.

In addition, a performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at The Loft Theater, 1441 E Fletcher Ave. Tickets are $5.

The 30-minute performance has a play-within-a-play theme, in which a girl portraying a mother in a school play decides to change her character.

Stephanie Bush, who graduated from Chamberlain this month, plays "Mother." Melissa Slocum, who also graduated this month, plays her daughter, and senior John Brogan plays the daughter's college boyfriend.

Rayfield said the three students came to mind as he was writing the play.

"I just have that quirky sense of humor that this play is all about," said John, 17.

The students have been preparing since October for the chance to take their act to the international festival.

"That was our goal," said Melissa, 17.

They have had plenty of chances to hone their acting skills in front of audiences. They received a superior rating at the Florida Theater Conference in November, the highest awarded by judges.

Stephanie, who plans on an acting career, was selected as best actor at a local festival in January for her role as "Mother." The play received another superior rating at the Florida State Thespian Festival in April.

The students said part of their success with the play is their ability to make each performance seem like the first.

"That's what it's all about _ keeping it new and fresh every time," John said.

I Hate Mothers has been selected to appear in an upcoming issue of Baker's Plays, a publication that caters to high school theater groups.

Rayfield already has started working on another play about teenagers, which he wants his students to perform in the fall.

He says his teaching experience has given him an insight into teenagers that helps him write his material.

"There's a truth in that some girls end up playing the mother role," Rayfield said. "High school is not the end of the world. If you're not a beauty queen in high school, there's a chance for change later on."