Steamboat Springs High School play combines interactivity, the 1980s and ‘awesome’ |

Steamboat Springs High School play combines interactivity, the 1980s and ‘awesome’

Nicole Inglis

Mary Willingham rehearses her part in Steamboat Springs High School's spring production, "Awesome 80s Prom" in the auditorium Tuesday evening. The play will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

— It wasn't a huge stretch for Steamboat Springs High School senior Jack Lupori. His character in the play “The Awesome 80s Prom,” A high-fiving, letter-jacket-wearing jock, is fitting for the football and lacrosse player. But there are a few things about acting he needed to adjust to for his first time performing in a high school theatrical production.

"Getting used to makeup," he said with a laugh just before dress rehearsal Tuesday afternoon.

Going from Gardner Field to the stage was different than he expected, but he'd always been interested in theater and film.

"It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be," he said. "It's been fun acting and actually trying it out for once."

Recruited from speech class by teacher and theater director Jamie Oberhansly, Lupori is one of more than 20 students starring in a play that is mostly unscripted.

About half improv and half memorized, "The Awesome 80s Prom" has cast members sitting in the audience and audience members dancing on stage.

Recommended Stories For You

This is the kind of show that just can't be fully rehearsed until opening night, but that's no matter for senior Mary Willingham.

"I love the curveballs the audience throws at me," she said. "It forces me to really know my character and be on my toes." And like all of the other characters, Willingham's is over the top and hyperbolic as the 1980s archetypal teacher — from her blue eye shadow to her teased hair.

The show opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, with subsequent shows Friday and Saturday nights at the same time. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for students and $4 for students with activities passes.

Audience members can dress in their favorite ’80s prom get-up and can participate as much — or as little — as they want. But be warned that the show starts before the audience even sits in their seats.

The cast, unlike some audience members, couldn't just break out their high school prom dress from the recesses of their closets. These students were all born in the 1990s, so research was in order.

"I gave them packets of '80s trivia and we had movie nights," Oberhansly said.

It doesn't change the fact they have to be prepared for anything, and all while staying in character.

"I can't predict the outcome," Oberhansly said about the improvisational nature of the show.

The show is centered on the 10 nominees for prom king and queen. The audience gets to vote and the comedic play will unfold with alternate endings depending on whom the audience picks.

The first time Oberhansly directed a show that involved audience interaction and improvisation in Steamboat was the 2011 fall musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," and it was a success, she said.

This year’s production includes a fifth-grader and two middle schoolers as well.

Oberhansly said that the large cast this spring is the result not just of her recruiting promising talent, but of the community built around the high school's drama program.

"It's not all about the Gershwin era or trying to take yourself too seriously," she said. "The kids have formed such a really wonderful family and that sense of camaraderie is infectious."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email