The Orcutt Academy High School Drama class invites the community to step into the enchanted world of Snow White, transforming the campus' multipurpose room into a scenic enchanted forest.
"Snow White" was written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Orcutt Academy Drama teacher Michael Shaw. Unlike the Disney classic, the play draws on conventions from English pantomime and American melodrama to deliver a new telling of the age-old tale.
"[Snow White] can be a really naive character," said junior Allanah Dizayee, laughing and adding that she enjoys the change in tone compared to her last production. "['Sherlock Holmes'] was a murder mystery and more mature. With 'Snow White,' it's been fun exploring the different characters and channeling my inner princess; it brightens my mood because there's so much smiling and laughing."
The play features immersive set pieces designed by Orcutt-based artist Kara Walker, who contributed the foam artwork for the production. Shaw said he got in contact with Walker after learning about her Halloween decorations, hoping to rent out her large foam trees.
"I couldn’t be happier with the work she has done," Shaw said. "It looks like Disneyland has magically transported itself onto the stage."
Opening on the dawn of her 18th birthday, the play follows Snow White (Dizayee) and her mother, the Evil Queen (Miranda Mejia), who has just been informed by her Magic Mirror (Emily Alvarado) that she will no longer be "the fairest of them all." In order to retain the title, the Evil Queen plots to have Snow White killed, contacting her best Huntsman (who happens to be a cleverly disguised Prince Williams (Andrew Genge) to dispatch Snow White.
Commanding an unbreakable poker face, strong tone and arched eyebrow, Mejia has embraced the role of the Evil Queen as the consummate antagonist — one she has filled in four previous productions.
"She's very full of herself and has absolutely no remorse for anything she does," she explained of her character. "She is evil, uptight, violent and will do anything to get what she wants."
A new addition to the cast and the production's only freshman, Mejia credits Shaw with helping her prepare for and ease into a leading role.
"I've grown very close to Mr. Shaw despite it being my first year at the school," she said. "He's a phenomenal teacher who knows what he's doing and believes in everyone."
Williams ultimately can't bring himself to kill Snow White, letting her flee into the forest where she winds up at the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. After learning that Snow White is alive and the Huntsman failed to do his job, the Evil Queen transforms three times into a young princess (Savannah Blevins), an old peasant woman (Rayah Squibb) and Disney-styled hag (Erin Ballard) to tempt Snow White into taking an enchanted object that would lead to her death.
Genge, a veteran of the Orcutt Academy Drama class, said he enjoyed tweaking the archetype of the Disney prince to progressively develop the character.
"In 'Snow White,' the Prince was always a big guy that was there to save the day," he said of his character. "Here he's played as a "scaredy-cat" and progressively becomes more confident and someone who can inherit a kingdom."
Shaw said the play was chosen to showcase the class' female dramatists, balancing last semester's production of the male-dominated "Sherlock Holmes." In addition to gender equity, Shaw said the show provides the community with a family-friendly show suitable for audiences of all ages.
"We specifically lowered the price of entrance for children, because it is one of our goals to expose children to the arts," he explained, adding that the class will perform the production for more than 220 second- through fourth-grade students.
"I wanted a place where I could [bring] the whole family for good, quality entertainment that is both safe and inspiring."