Who can forget John Bender asking, “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?” Dick Vernon threatening to crack skulls? Or Andy Clarke musing, “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
Those and other memorable lines from an eclectic group of high school students trying to fit in, and their tough-talking, no-nonsense detention supervisor, will be revisited when Wauseon High School presents a staged version of the 1985 Universal Studios hit, “The Breakfast Club.”
The cutting zingers and soul-searching interactions between characters labeled the criminal, the princess, the athlete, the brain, and the basket case will make their way to the high school auditorium Friday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.
It’s not your parents’ high school play.
Director Adam Baird, Spanish teacher and fall play advisor, has adapted the film’s R-rated script for the stage and for a general audience. Harsher profanity has been removed, and references to drugs and sex toned down, and a character or two added. But Baird promises the story remains faithful to the original plot and keeps its edge.
Performers include Breanna Demaline as Claire, Lucas Blanchong as Brian, Aaron Spieles as Andrew, Blade Johnston as John, Allison Reynolds as Clarissa, Lela Slattman as Rhonda Vernon, and Dean Torres as Carl. The cast totals 19 performers.
“Most of cast has seen the movie, so they came in enthusiastic. They were very, very eager to jump right in and hit the ground running,” Baird said.
Universal Studios granted him the rights to the iconic ’80s film, giving him creative license to adapt the screenplay for the high school stage. His rewrite removed the most offensive language and some of the subject matter to appeal to a wider audience.
“I made it a little finer around the edges to make sure we didn’t ruffle any feathers and offend the general public,” he said.
But he’s warning parents that his stage version still contains mature content, and suggests the play is inappropriate for anyone under 13 years old. Advisories will be included on promotional material.
Due to the large pool of female talent that auditioned for roles, Baird altered the character of Richard “Dick” Vernon, making it female. “Rhonda” Vernon, however, will be the same blowhard, and retain the same bluster, as her male counterpart.
Baird also added a character, a secretary, to take advantage of the many female students eager for a part.
“I just wanted to get as many involved as I can, because there are many talented female performers at Wauseon High School,” he said.
The plot involves five students of an Illinois high school brought together for a Saturday detention session supervised by their loud, egocentric principal. The students represent vastly different members of the school’s social hierarchy, and each struggles with their place within. Over the course of eight hours they fight, argue, and belittle one another, but ultimately realize they’re more alike than any of them imagined.
“We wanted to really capture the spirit of the movie. We want the audience to see we paid homage to the film but put a fresh spin on the story,” Baird said. “The talent is off the charts here. That’s a testament to the wealth of talent we have available here.”
He said the movie, which has run frequently on cable channels, “resonates with an entire generation. And this current generation is starting to discover it, and are connecting to it as well.”
The school’s production was embraced by both administrators and students. Baird said students will relate to the theme and the story, “and that’s the primary aim of this production. It definitely still presents relatability and that raw edge from the movie.”
It’s his third year as director of the school’s fall production. Baird said he enjoys taking risks with the material, but reasonable ones.
“I don’t want to offend anyone. It’s my goal to put on a production that’s memorable and makes people feel like they relate to it, and it’s relatable to everyday life,” he said.
Senior Breanna Demaline plays Claire, the upper-class “princess” who struggles with her role as one the school’s most popular students. Demaline has performed in past WHS productions including “The Craving”, “Thanks,” and “Clue.”
“She’s very in her own world, and has her mind set,” Demaline said of her character. “But by the end of the play she goes outside her comfort zone and evolves into a better person. I like that.”
Demaline, who plans a career as a veterinarian, said she enjoys performing because it’s a fanciful form of escape. “I can get away from myself and go into a separate world of my character. And I like to reach out to people in a different way,” she said.
Senior Lela Slattman, another veteran of WHS productions including “Good Cop, Bad Cop,” “Booby Trap,” and “Clue,” plays Rhonda Vernon. She took her lead from the performance of the late Paul Gleason, who portrayed Richard Vernon in the film.
“It’s a little out there, compared to what you would imagine of a normal principal,” Slattman said.
She plans to study business and public health at Cleveland State University, and said her experience in theater helps her to build confidence when speaking in front of others.
Slattman also confesses to experiencing extreme stage fright, but said, “I take deep breaths before the lights come on, and I become more relaxed when I play my character.”
WHS Principal Keith Leatherman said he discussed the production with Baird, and isn’t concerned about the subject matter. He said it’s not the school’s intention to deliberately offer edgier or more provocative plays.
“We’re just looking for something a little different, that the kids will enjoy, and with some entertainment value. But still appropriate,” he said.
The job of director can be stressful, but seeing the finished product before him is rewarding, Baird said. It can also be bittersweet.
“It’s a relief that you made it that far… but it’s also a little disheartening because you realize you’re going to have to move on,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.