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Letting ‘Rumors’ fly in Vail

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Rumors 02 TS 05-07-08
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VAIL, Colorado ” Sara Stookey fell in love with the play “Rumors” when she saw it performed at summer camp three years ago.

“This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” she thought. “I’d like to do this.”

So Stookey knew right away she wanted to produce “Rumors” for her senior project at Vail Mountain School in East Vail.

Only problem: The script packs some mature content ” namely curse words and sexual innuendo.

“It had adult content,” Drama teacher Melissa Schmitz said. “The first hurdle for us was to look at it through a different lens. We are a K-through-12 school, so when we select a play, we are sensitive to that.”

The Neil Simon comedy, a hilarious dig at New York’s high society, bursts with sophisticated humor, but was it too sophisticated for students? Stookey wrestled with that question, Headmaster Peter Abuisi recalled.

“She spoke with me about that and asked if it was OK to leave the adult language in,” he said. “I asked her how she thought she should deal with that.”

Stookey decided to leave most of the adult language in, but rated the play PG-13. That means students younger than high school freshmen can’t come in without the explicit consent of a parent chaperone.

“I thought she used good judgment in that regard,” Abuisi said.

The PG-13 rating was the first of many instances where Stookey used her judgment.

For the veteran actress, producing “Rumors” required stepping outside her comfort zone, the spotlight, and taking charge of, well, everything.

“I wanted to try my hand at directing people and see if I could make paper, lines on a page, come into something in real life,” she said.

“Sara!”

“Sara!”

“Sara!”

Just before the tech rehearsal for “Rumors” starts inside Vail Mountain School’s auditorium, Stookey is in high demand.

Sara, have you seen my script? Sara, when do I turn this light on? Stookey remains calm, responding to each request with clear, firm directions.

For the 17-year-old, producing has been a lesson in multi-tasking.

“It takes the ability to focus on a whole bunch of things at once,” she says, shortly after telling an actor where to place a speaker, “which is something I have learned over this process.”

The fact that Stookey has learned more than just giving orders comes as no surprise to Schmitz, who directs all the plays at the school.

“She thought she was going to learn to direct a play,” Schmitz said. “She was going to learn how to manage emotions. She was going to deal with a budget. She was going to learn how to sew. She was going to learn to cut wood.”

Directing is a huge undertaking, especially for a student with other responsiblities, but Schmitz thought Stookey could handle it.

“She is a very mature, driven student,” she said. “Once I realized that, how could I say ‘no,’ as a teacher?”

Over the past two months, Stookey has proved herself as a producer. She oversaw construction of the most elaborate set the school has built. She stood before the philanthropy board to request a grant to cover production costs in the event ticket sales fall short. And she learned to schedule rehearsals around other projects that used the auditorium.

If she had one “do-over,” though, Stookey said she probably wouldn’t cast her friends in the play. “I have my two best friends in the show and while they’re brilliant, absolutely brilliant, I wouldn’t only because it’s so hard to find a balance between friend and director,” Stookey said.

Watching the tech rehearsal, it’s clear Stookey found a way to strike that balance. Students clad in suits and evening gowns morph into gossipy aristocrats. “Rumors” is about a couple that shows up to a dinner party, only to discover the host has been shot in the ear and the hostess is gone. The couple tries to hide the situation from the other guests, prompting rumors. “It’s a very good lesson on how rumors can snowball out of control, and in the end, truth is the best policy,” Schmitz said.

Although Stookey has shined as a producer so far, this weekend’s shows will be the final test of her abilities.

“I have complete confidence in her,” Stookey’s father, Robert Stookey said. “Every time I see her on stage, she surprises me (with) how much confidence she has.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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