Groundlings Festival Premieres at CHS

By Adriana Milian-Hernandez and Ashley Lytle

“We called it ‘The Groundlings Festival’ because there is an arts festival in Portland called the Fertile Grounds festival, and we wanted to basically try to be a miniature version of that, with music, theater, and dance acts put together in a show setting. We didn’t quite get the dance, but other than that, we got a great variety,” said senior Sawyer Jackson.

The show began with Jackson and senior Grant McCall engaging in an intense fencing match, which was part of a mini preview of the upcoming performance of “The Three Musketeers” by the Cleveland drama department. It premieres on Feb. 24 and will last until early May. The preview for “the Three Musketeers” was hysterical, we couldn’t stop laughing. It was a perfect beginning scene to get the audience pumped and ready for what we would soon learn would be a spectacular show.

The show was set up by having numerous single act performances, each one followed by a musical performance. The stage was lit in different colors that changed throughout the performances creating a magical display that fit each performance’s mood.

Seniors Duncan Kass and Aiden Lester-Ingram sang “Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens. Their voices were amazing and their harmonies beautiful. The song was mesmerizing and they each came out with instruments that made the song more personal and unique. The background selection was a vibrant yet calming combination of magenta and blue, leaving us feeling tranquil.

Their performance was followed by “The Great Pandemonium,” directed by seniors Aubrey Tilford and Sophia Valdez. Starring sophomore Sophie Friedenwald-Fishman, who portrayed a comical and fierce director, the act had us hooked from the beginning.
“First Impressions” is an original piece written by senior Shayla Bailey and directed by juniors Abbey Wilusz and Mia Bolte. It proved to be a fantastic act, performed by a mere cast of two. They created the setting using a blanket and basket to transport the audience to the scene of a picnic.

This act was about two people who met online. At the beginning, the girl accuses the guy of not being the person in the profile picture, stating that he looked different without abs. With little chemistry sparking between them after that the audience soon witnessed a sudden flash of light followed by everything restarting from their first encounter, allowing the two lovebirds to repeatedly get another chance. They start getting to know each other, talking about their life while continually getting a do-over from their first encounter, unbeknownst to them. It was a true testament to the multiple talents Bailey has, revealing her skill with the written word.

Junior Sarah Jones then sang “Wagon Wheel,” a song that matched perfectly with her vocal power. Her voice produced a sweet, powerful, and demanding sound that captured your full attention. During her performance, she played the guitar and the harmonica, giving the song the more personal touch that it most certainly needed.

Jones directed the next act, which was about two clowns (seniors Will Balmer and Seth Prevatti) meeting to discuss how they could improve their business by surprising people unexpectedly during their day-to-day routine. Clowns made national news for terrorizing people last fall, and we were left feeling a connection to the story. The pair left the crowd laughing from the absurdity of the idea and the obvious concerns Prevatti’s character had with Balmer’s character’s suggestion. It was a favorite from the night.
The first half ended with a special performance by a trio of sixth grade kids from Hosford who were granted the opportunity to perform in the Cleveland production. Their performance was great. The kids looked professional on stage. They knew exactly what to do: How to use the space, how to talk loudly enough for the audience to hear, and how to become their characters. We were engaged during the entirety of their performance. They were comical, especially as the student played a teacher who was in charge of detention and who continually became frustrated when the “bad boy” disobeyed her order. The kids are going to be the new future of the drama department at Cleveland. Even though they’re young, their acting was wonderful and we truly believe by the time they reach Cleveland they will be even better.
Other shows we particularly enjoyed throughout the night include “Action News (Now With 10% More Action)” directed by Kaya Hellman and Matthew Blender. It had us laughing so hard due to how crazy and hectic the news show was. The absurdity of some of the news pieces left the audience chuckling all the way through. Another performance we found entrancing was Bailey’s performance of “Buddy Holly” by Weezer, where her vocals and piano skills connected with us immediately, leaving us wanting more. The show concluded with the act “Post Its: Notes on a Marriage” directed by seniors Bailey and Ariana Montagne, which we and the audience thoroughly enjoyed.

This year’s “Groundlings Festival” was filled with many powerful performances. We really appreciated the musical acts that they added this year. They added a deeper element to the show, demonstrating an evolution to Cleveland’s already fantastic drama department. Each act was tremendous and it showed the great abilities that each person in the theater department has. Their many strengths included students’ amazing voices and the many multi-talented students that Cleveland continues to help grow. Although we only got to see one night of performances and we didn’t mention all those we saw, everyone should feel extremely proud of how they did. It was such a great experience to watch everyone on stage perform as they proved just how diversely talented the Cleveland drama program really is.