“Harvey” is the title of the spring play directed by drama teacher Todd Schaefer, running from April 13-16. This play is a comedy with serious topics and is also a Pulitzer winner.
Written by Mary Chase in the 40s, “Harvey” is about two siblings, Elwood and Veta, dealing with the loss of their mother and fighting over inheritance. Elwood becomes friends with an imaginary rabbit named Harvey, whom no one else can see except him.
“Elwood is the nicest person on the planet. He has countless friends; everyone loves him; he is the perfect human being, but because he has this relationship with a six-and-a-half-foot-tall rabbit, he’s going to be put into a mental institution and given drugs that even the doctors don’t understand, that will basically change him,” Schaefer said.
The play has a large focus on mental health and whether or not drugs and mental institutions are the answer.
“Coming out of COVID our goal is to stay on more lighthearted stuff, not slapstick, but something that’s going to make the audience go away thinking but still feeling good,” Schaefer said about the topics of the show.
Schaefer enjoys putting on award-winning plays. In the fall, he directed “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse”, which was written by Don Zolidis, who is the most produced playwright in American schools.
Schaefers’ goal as the director has been to keep rehearsals fun and lighthearted so that the same feeling can come through to the audience during the show.
Schaefer said it’s difficult to hand an actor 71 pages to memorize but still encourage them to smile and laugh during rehearsals.
“I would much rather end up with a show that maybe I look back at and think, ‘Oh I would’ve liked to fix that or that.’ I’m okay with that with my comedies because you don’t get as far in rehearsals keeping it light. You burn a little time keeping the fun in it,” said Schaefer, with his dramas, he comes in knowing he has to deal with a heavy topic and get the work done.
Auditions for “Harvey” took place right after winter break and were completed in one day since there are only 12 roles in the show. The main characters are played by Teddy Woldow (Elwood) and Fynn Wolfe (Veta). Set production took about a week and a half, Schaefer said due to crunched time scheduling, they had to create it fast. “We fine-tuned it up to opening night,” he said.
If Schaefer could direct plays all day long, every day of his life he would.
About what his favorite thing about directing plays is, he spoke about the joy of “sculpting” the story. It takes months to uncover the meaning of the play through rehearsals and learn how to portray that message to the audience through the cast, and it ends with a two-hour play.
“My mother who has seen 40 years of my work, and I’ve done a lot of shows, still comes up to me afterward and asks the same question which is ‘how long does it take you guys to do that?’ and I love that magic of it,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer comes in with a vision, and if he portrays that vision then the audience gets the story that he wants to tell, and his vision is always about the audience getting something very specific in the end.