The student actors of Durango High School Troupe 1096 are setting a “Trap” for theater-goers in the form of their next production, and it’s going to be a doozy.
Giving too much of the plot away would spoil the fun, so a brief synopsis:
“Trap,” written by Stephen Gregg, takes place in Menachap, California. Every person – except one – in the audience of a high school play at the Oak Box Theater falls unconscious. The ensuing investigation into the incident is brought to the stage documentary-style, featuring interviews from witnesses, loved ones, first responders and the investigators pursuing the case. As the story unfolds, we begin to see that things are not what they seem ...
This is an ambitious production, one the troupe is more than up for, said Director Ben Mattson.
“The author, Stephen Gregg, writes a lot of plays that are specifically written for high schools to perform. Normally, the phrase ‘written specifically for high school theater’ is an eye-roll of ‘after-school special’ morality plays, or adults trying to write forced ‘current’ dialogue. Gregg’s plays are fantastic, imaginative and create some of the most exciting theatre experiences I’ve come across,” Mattson said. “Stephen Gregg was invited to showcase the play ‘Trap’ at the 2018 International Theatre Festival that I take my students to every summer. It definitely had the 5,000 students and chaperones attending the festival on the edge of our seats. We thought it fit in well with our season and provided something different than we’ve done before.”
And it is a challenge The actors use every part of the theater in the show, and its documentary-type format keeps the action going.
“It is literally unlike any theater people have seen in Durango. Even in my earlier years of working in fringe theatre companies in Chicago and Minneapolis, it rivals some of the experimental work,” he said. “Still, I’ve never seen this concept played with in such an exciting way.”
Senior Lola Thomas is the assistant director and projections designer for the show, positions that afford her a lot of flexibility, she said.
“Mattson really let me have a lot of creative freedom with this show, allowing me to set most of the scenes and toy with the actors how I chose to,” she said. “It was my first time directing on a large scale, and it’s been wonderful to work through difficult material with such eager actors and an absolutely amazing mentor.”
For Thomas, the thrill of the show so far has been in hammering out the fine details during rehearsals.
“The best part has been the seemingly subtle tweaks during rehearsal,” she said. “All of a sudden, an actor will realize another perspective on a line or find a moment to breathe or ad lib and it’ll change the entire dynamic of a scene and the pace of the production as a whole. I’ve really enjoyed to see how much of a difference each detail makes.”
Thomas added that the way “Trap” is set up, it will take a while for audience members to shake the experience of the mystery/thriller.
“I think the show is surprising up until the last second and will keep viewers on the edge of their seat even in the car ride home,” she said.