Cast brings dark subject into spotlight in ‘Ordinary People’

Photo: Makayla Waterman

Senior Kaitlin Allard and Junior Kevin Manley rehearse their roles in the dramatic play, "Ordinary People."

By Josh Strange, Features/Entertainment Editor

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Something very ordinary will take place in Fairmont’s auditorium in early November. Fairmont’s best actors will be dramatizing an extraordinary story titled Ordinary People.

Ordinary People was originally a novel written in 1976 by Judith Guest. When the story was adapted for the silver screen by Robert Redford and Alvin Sargent in 1980, it became a huge success, winning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The movie was adapted to a play, and now Fairmont’s actors have a chance to put their take on it.

Set in the 1970s, the story focuses on the Jarretts, an average suburban family that’s dealing with the death of their eldest son. His sudden death by drowning causes the ordinary family to fall apart, starting with suicidal thoughts by younger son Conrad (the main character, played by senior A.J. Breslin). Meanwhile, his mother, Beth Jarrett (senior Kaitlin Allard), strives to return the family to a model suburban family, while his father, Cal Jarrett (junior Kevin Manley), drifts away from his surviving son.

This will be Fairmont’s first time putting on the play, and it will be on stage Nov. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. for the public. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. However, a student-exclusive performance will be offered for only $3 starting at 4 p.m. on Nov. 6.

The cast is relatively small, as there are only nine roles. Auditioning students were whittled down from 32. “It’s a small group and it’s a very personal group, and everyone is committed to what they have to do in the play,” said Director Darren McGarvey.

The cast promises to provide a naturally emotional performance, starting with camaraderie among cast members. “The best part is being with all these people; I love the cast!” said senior Devon Whalen, who will share the role of Karen Aldrich with senior Ashley York.

All the actors feel linked together. “The best part of Ordinary People is being able to connect to all the members of the cast. We’ve become a second family to one another,” said junior Alex Brandt, who plays Joe Lazenby.

Senior Patrick Condron agrees with Brandt. “I’ve come to accept the cast as my family.” Condron plays Coach Salan and loves performing. “Acting is a way I can express myself in ways I never thought possible.”

A reason to purchase a ticket and sit in the audience is the level of emotion. “The emotion catches the audience off-guard,” said Manley. “It confronts people’s real problems.”

Senior Indigo MonBeck, who will be taking up the role of Doctor Berger, said the play is unique. “It’s different because it’s normal. It’s raw and powerful,” he said. “It’s going to move some people.”

The play deals with sensitive subjects that affect almost every teenager, whether it’s first-hand or a friend of a friend. “I like the story and the issues it deals with,” said McGarvey, explaining why the play was chosen. The most apparent topics the play deals with are suicide and family struggles.

Because the topics addressed in the play are so serious, McGarvey has arranged to have representatives from community organizations that specialize in suicide support present in the lobby after the show.  School counselors also will be present.

“It’ll show people that other people understand how they’re feeling,” said senior Woody Hieb, who will portray Stillman, a high school student who bullies Conrad. Senior Caroline Grogan plays Conrad’s sweetheart Jeannine, who tries to help him through this and many other struggles.

McGarvey advises struggling students to “continue on the journey and keep relying on each other.”

The audience will witness the payoff of the cast’s hard work, as Ordinary People is a dynamically impassioned performance; adults and students alike will be able to relate. “It speaks to everyone. Everyone will probably find themselves in one of the lines of the play,” said McGarvey. “These are issues we all deal with.”

The play’s message is strong and will keep the audience attentive to the stage for the entire time. The ending is bittersweet, but Manley likes the message. “Even though life is throwing this at us,” he said, “we’re still here.”