Motha Earth checks out Wisdom Warrior and his girlfriend Patti in the new booth at Uncle Kang’s Diner. That stuff she’s dabbing on her zits? It was intended to be a magical potion to take Wisdom’s mind off other girls. Turns out it works even better as acne cream.
Welcome to the mythical yet teen-down-to-earth world of Hope High: Class of ‘84.
It’s the first production of the Warehouse Ensemble, a group of 13 to 19-year-old teens and adult actors, a cast of 23 who open on Friday night at Long Wharf’s Stage Two.
Their play was written, choreographed, and directed by Sharece M. Sellem and is being produced by the Bregamos Community Theater and its indefatigable leader Rafael Ramos.
Ramos also presides over much unwanted drama as Livable City Initiatives’s head of housing code enforcement.
In another first, Ramos is also acting in Sellem’s play.
He’s Uncle Kang, the owner of the greasy spoon that’s the center of life for the kids at crime and poor-condition plagued Cedar City High School.
They love Kang but they give him a hard time. In one scene during the dress rehearsal late Wednesday night, Kang turns to his young critics who have turned their nose up at his daily special and declares: “Hey, there is nothing wrong with the meat loaf. Where else can you get a meat loaf special on a Wednesday!”
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Click here to read about Sellem’s work as a performance artist and mime and her previously produced plays in town, which she mounts when she’s not teaching as the visiting artist at the Davis Street Arts and Academics School in Westville.
The young actors, at least five of whom have never been in a play before, have been rehearsing at the pace of two two-hour sessions a week for the past six months.
At Wednesday’s rehearsal, she was both full of praise and tough love, the latter because her thespians had been acting, well, like teenagers, and making too much noise during rehearsal.
Note from Director: Your Cell Phones Don’t Exist
Stay in character from now on, she declared in remarks after the cast practiced their end-of-play bowing.
“You’re in 1984. Put your cell phones away. They don’t exist. Be fully in character from now on. You’re an actor. It’s a profession,” she said.
Sellem said her Warehouse Ensemble(WE) was needed because there was no active acting company for teens in the Greater New Haven area.
This inaugural season the training for the kids has been largely acting, with adults pitching in, including the sets having been painted by Independent contributing writer David Sepulveda.
In the future, Sellem said, she hopes to expand the training so kids in the WE will also learn props, set design, and the behind the scenes of the theater world.
She said the play has been percolating with her since 2009 and she took in the dances that people were doing to accompany Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“I’m an adult, but I feel like I’m a teen,” she said. Sellem said at the heart of the play is her interest in the complex relationships among kids—wannabees, the pseudo-revolutionaries, nerds, jocks, who’s in and who’s out.
It’s liberating to have that on the stage, she said. “This is a community project. We want to be the hot things for teens [in town].”
As the cast gathered their costumes and props and made final checks as to who’s in charge of what for the performances, Uncle Kang threw in another assessment: “I’m not an actor, but I’ve learned a lot in six months. We’re family now. Let’s have fun,” he said.
For tickets and information, call 860-840-2877 or 203-303-7300.