‘Geeks’ steal the show
PALMER — Colony High School students, staff and alumni say the generation of geek — or nerd — is here.
And it’s hip to be square.
Last weekend and this coming Friday and Saturday (Nov. 6 and 7), Crystal Skillman’s anime convention story, “Geek!” is onstage at Colony High. The first two shows were prefaced by the school’s first convention, “ColonyCon,” complete with costumes, video games, snacks, Pokemon movies and fan art.
Drama and media teacher Brian Mead said he found the script for “Geek!” while looking for this season’s shows last spring. Thinking this year’s main cohort of thespians would relate to it better than the previous year’s core group of actors and actresses, he pitched it to the students.
They loved it.
“It’s kind of a popular culture with this group of people,” Mead said, of Japanese-style animation and Cosplay (dressing up as an animated character).
Though many Colony directors over the years (including Mead) have tried to “stick with bigger-name shows” in the past — such as Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and Arthur Laurents’ “West Side Story” — school staff are seeing just as much positive reception from students about newer and nerdier plays like “Geek!”
The timing of the opening show and the associated convention — organized by teacher Christine Duffy — appropriately coincided with Halloween, layering the event with multiple levels of dress-up. But the show has a more serious message to convey than “Cosplay is OK.”
The story follows teenagers Danya (Isabella Krostek) and Honey (Sara Main) through nine floors of the biggest convention in the country as they search for their idol, animator Samagashi. The problem is, they’re late to the event and they’ve lost their tickets. Why? Because they just buried their best friend, Honey’s sister Ellen (Naomi Winders), and are addled in the wake of her suicide.
Going ahead with the three girls’ original plan to attend the convention together, Danya and Honey make it their mission to reach Samagashi and present their fan videos to the author in honor of their lost friend.
Skillman uses Dante’s “Inferno” as the literary launching pad for the girls’ journey to find their hero and themselves, as Danya and Honey fight to understand who they are outside of the characters they pretend to be — Dante and Virgie.
Krostek, a junior at Colony, said her character is “afraid to really be who she is,” and blames herself for Ellen’s death.
“She’d much rather be Dante, who’s this bigger than life hero that’s always there,” Krostek said.
Though she’s never been to an anime convention (she skipped the two class trips to Senshi Con in Anchorage because of her homework load and involvement in marching band), Krostek said the idea has always appealed to her. Professing one’s love for anime in school can have negative repercussions, she said, but the conventions seems to be more inviting.
“Everybody just wants to know each other,” she said.
Krostek said she’s had a similar experience with the drama club, with members of the group having become a part of her “second family.”
“I felt like I wasn’t alone when I was here (with theater students). When I needed someone, they were there,” she said.
Winders, who is mostly featured in video flashbacks projected on a backdrop onstage, agreed, saying she really identifies with her character in the play.
“I’ve been bullied, I’ve been called names, so I tried to really put that into how I portrayed Ellen,” she said.
However, the play doesn’t just accuse an outsider of the bullying that may have led to Ellen’s death — rather, it’s implied that her suicide results from her feeling that the few friends she does have don’t appreciate her outside of the character she plays with said friends. Thus, the lesson is that all people are accountable for how they treat others, not just the people who are different from one person’s crowd.
Colony alumni and former drama students Sam and Roxie Bordelon, who attended the convention as vendors selling green-screen portraits, attested to the fact that even the eclectic nature of theater can be exclusive, and breaking that mold is a very good thing.
Sam Bordelon referenced one of his classmates — an athlete thought of by some as a popular kid — as an example.
“When Kam Walters came in, that was huge,” he said. “Theater appealed to a much larger microcosm of people after that.”
General nerddom — which several students conflated with geekiness — has also become more accepted and even cool, Sam Bordelon said.
“When I was in elementary school, ‘nerd’ was more of a put-down. Now, if I’m a nerd, that means I’m like (Faceboook founder and CEO) Mark Zuckerberg,” he said.
Duffy, a self-proclaimed “Trekkie,” agreed. She said the stereotype of anime lovers living in their parents’ basements and playing video games as adults still exists, but is on the way out.
“There’s no certain type anymore.
Though Colony’s 2015 convention is over, Duffy said she plans to help the students host another event next year.
For advance tickets to the two remaining showings of “Geek!,” visit the Colony High School Drama Club page at matsuk12.us/page/10509.