In this unique stage comedy, there are no male or female leads, no supporting players and no musical chorus.
Instead, all 14 actors with the Prince George’s Summer Teen Theatre play multiple roles and are on stage throughout “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play,” starting Friday for two weekends in Old Town Bowie.
“Everyone’s on the same footing, and nobody’s in the spotlight,” says producer Hark Tagunicar, an alum of the group who attended Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and who is also on the Teen Theatre board.
The ensemble comedy by Alan Haehnel runs through 30 horrible and catastrophic things that can go wrong during a production — everything from stage kisses, pinkeye and World War III.
Performing monologues, sketches and extended scenes are students from high schools such as Bowie, Eleanor Roosevelt and DeMatha, as well as several colleges.
Tagunicar says this year’s summer production represents a departure for the teen company, which got its start in 1967 and for most of its history, has presented Broadway-style musicals performed most of the time at Beltsville’s High Point High School.
But this year the company changed not only its format but also its venue, primarily for money reasons.
“Mostly what we’re trying to do is keep our company financially stable,” Tagunicar says, noting that rent at the Charis Center for the Arts in Old Town Bowie is lower than at the high school. Royalties for “30 Reasons” also were lower than for other musicals.
Located in a former Episcopal church complex on Eighth Street, the Charis Center opened more than a year ago, offering after-school arts programs as well as programs earlier in the day for home-schooled children.
The complex has a smaller theater space than High Point, which Tagunicar says is better suited for “30 Reasons.”
“It’s a little more intimate for the audience,” he says.
Alyssa Brown, who lives in Glenn Dale, is spending her first summer with the company.
A rising junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, she’s on the improvisational acting team at her school.
“I feel that experience really helps me in the show, because each of us plays 10 characters,” she says.
“We have to change our physical characters and voices ... and with every character you play, you learn a little more about acting,” she says.
Also new to the group is Kreme Lephew, 15, who has autism and lives in Bowie with her guardian, Sharon Markowich.
Lephew, who has difficulty speaking, performed in the company’s spring production, “You Never Know,” an original script by student Daryn Robinson.
Robinson’s one-act play is about a boy with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and about how students are bullied.
“She stole the show,” Tagunicar says about Lephew’s performance. “We gave her speaking lines and added a new character specifically for her.”
“It was such a positive experience that she came back for this show,” he says.
Lephew has about four lines in “30 Reasons,” one of which reflects the characters’ refusal to perform in a play because of its hazards.
“We are not going to do it, period!,” she says.
Lephew also says she enjoys watching the other actors and watching the physical comedy everyone uses to exaggerate their characters.
“I want to learn more lines,” says Lephew, who says she would like to extend her experience and perform on a bigger stage, perhaps at Bowie High School, where she is a student.
“I hope so,” she says.
Markowich, a special education teacher who works at the Robert Goodard Montessori School in Seabrook, says Lephew’s new theater experience has brought some of her inner life to the surface.
“We’re getting to know who she is,” Markowich says. “It’s just opened up a door for her. It’s just been a miracle.”