Photo courtesy of Laura- Louise Perkinson.
Seniors Mark Hammontree (playing Androcles), Spiro Gerontakis (playing Capitano) and Joey Weed (playing Pantelones) perform Androcles and the Lion.
It was a risk. A new theatre teacher, a challenging style of theatre, and performing a Shakespearean show at the same time. It could have been a recipe for disaster. But the Mountain Brook High School theatre troupe managed to not only pull it off, they also became the first Mountain Brook show to be chosen to represent the state at the annual Southeastern Theatre Conference.
The show is Androcles and the Lion by Aurand Harris. The storyline revolved around a slave named Androcles (played by senior Mark Hammontree) living in 16th century Rome. His master, Pantalone (senior Joey Weed) is a stingy miser who works Androcles night and day. When Pantalone’s niece, Isabella (junior Bailey Edmunds) falls in love with a neighboring boy named Lelio (sophomore Austin Russell), Pantalone is willing to do anything to keep them from marrying and losing Isabella’s dowry. Bringing in the “bravest solider in Rome,” Pantalone and his newfound ally, Capitano (senior Spiro Gerontakis), search for the lovers as they escape to elope. An unlikely friendship is made when Androcles helps a lion in the woods (junior Meryem Tunagur, with the Lion’s voices by senior Sara Anne Stringfellow, junior DeeDee Joehl, junior Allie Cannon, and the Lion’s roar by senior Charles Butterworth).
This children’s show was performed in the Commedia dell’Arte style, a form of theatre common in 16th century Italy. This comedic style is characterized by a group of stock characters and ensemble members entitled the Zanni. Masks were typical in Commedia, and it is the basis for modern “slapstick comedy.”
“I wanted to incorporate as much of the original style of Commedia as possible into the show,” said Director Jesse Tilton. “It’s a very historical style of theatre, and it was neat getting to learn about it and then bring it to the stage.”
On Saturday, Nov. 5 the troupe competed at Thompson High School in the district level of the annual Walter Trumbauer Theatre Competition. The one act won the awards for Best Ensemble, Best Sets and Best in Show. Winning Best in Show meant that they advanced to the State level.
The show was also lucky enough to take six out of the 13 spots in the All-Star Cast. These actors were Charles Butterworth, Allie Cannon, Spiro Gerontakis, DeeDee Joehl, Sara Anne Stringfellow and Meryem Tunagur. Mark Hammontree won overall Best Male Actor in a One Act.
In addition to the one act, 36 out of the 42 individual events entered advanced to the state level. These individual events consisted of monologues, duets, singing, tech design and pantomime.
At the State level on Dec. 2 and 3 the show was again a huge success, taking home the award for Best Costumes and Best in Show. Androcles and the Lion was also selected to be one of two shows out of the 18 that competed to represent the state of Alabama at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Chattanooga in March. This is the first time Mountain Brook has ever been selected to represent the state.
“Going to State was such an amazing experience,” said Weed. “We got to see a lot of truly amazing show, and we all met a bunch of new friends while we were there.”
Meryem Tunagur was again chosen for All-Star Cast, with Spiro Gerontakis taking Best Supporting Actor in a One Act. Mark Hammontree received the award for Best Lead Actor in a One Act Show.
“Winning at State was so great,” said Mark Hammontree. “None of us were ready to be done with this show, and we went out there and did the best we possibly could.”
Meryem Tunagur was also selected to read in a special performance of the winner of the playwright competition. She was one of five actors chosen out of 50 who auditioned.
Mountain Brook was also successful with many of their individual events. Junior Carolyn McCalley won third place in Novice Sound Design for her design for the show Alice in Wonderland. Junior Tamara Hites received second place in Solo Musical Female Dramatic Novice singing “Gotta Get Out” from Ordinary Days.
Senior Bryce Martinez won first place in Novice Set Design for his design for the show Equus. Senior Emily Seigel received second place in Solo Acting Female Contemporary Comedic Varsity for her monologue from the show Moon Over Buffalo. Seniors Elizabeth Perkinson and Sara Anne Stringfellow won 2nd place in Duet Classical Dramatic Varsity.
Tunagur also received 2nd place in Female Contemporary Dramatic for her monologue called “Crazy” by Mindy Jones.
“I’m so proud of everyone,” said Jesse Tilton. “We’ve accomplished so much in just one semester. We performed an amazing run of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and now we’re going to SETC, I could not have had a better first season at Mountain Brook.”