Awesome 80s Prom

With an opening night on April 12, the SMSU Theatre Department ended their 50th anniversary season with Awesome 80s Prom written by Kevin Davenport and the Class of ‘89. The production was an interactive show that replicated a prom taking place in 1989. Audience members could socialize with well-known character types from 80s movies such as: the captain of the football team, a Swedish exchange student, and the school delinquent.

Characters included: Blake Williams, the captain of the football team (played by Paul Ragan); Michael Jay, the class president (Dean Zinda); Louis Fensterspock, the nerd (Colin Hoppe); Feung Schwey, the Asian exchange student (Raxson Rax); Nick Fender, the bad boy (Jordan Stangeland); Watts, Fender’s partner in crime (Sally Tabaka); Whitley Whitiker, the head cheerleader (Avianna McFarquhar); Kerrie Kowalski, the spaz (Jaylee Schanus); Melissa Ann “Missy” Martin, the head of the prom committee (Sariah Cheadle); Inga Swanson, the Swedish exchange student (Hannah Buysse, Becca Green, Zoe Lier); Dickie Harrington, the drama queen (Brittni Branch, Kaila Halpine); Mr. Richard “Dick” Snelgrove, the principal (Mike Lenz); Mrs. Patty Louwagie, the drama teacher (Anita Gaul); Heather Wellington, a cheerleader (Emily Errico); Heather Wynters, another cheerleader (Elizabeth Zoya); Joshua “Beef” Beefarowski, a football player (Danny McDonnell); Johnny Hughes, the DJ (Abraham Tabares); Lolly Parker, the freshmen (Caitlin Schmidt); Molly Parker, the freshman’s sister (Whitney McCamish);  and Antonio Ledbetter as a MC Hammer impersonator.

“I really enjoyed being in Awesome 80s Prom because it gave me a chance to expand on my acting skills and my [improv] skills.” Schanus said. “I also had a ton of fun being able to work on my character by myself and coordinating with other characters and actors on our relationships. It was hilarious that Kerrie and Dick Snelgrove were related in such a humorous way, with Kerrie’s dad marrying Snelgrove’s soon to be ex-wife and even calling her mom and Snelgrove, Dad, even though he was soon to be unrelated to her.”

Many cast members appreciated the show for it’s unique mix of scripted and unscripted scenes paired with audience interaction.

“Awesome 80s Prom was so much fun, and I loved everything involved with it,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been to a dinner theatre before, but it was nothing like the show the theatre department put on for the masses. This show was a lot of work but every minute was worth the while. Thank you to all that attended the show, and I hope you come to more shows in the future.”

The show, surprising when considering the success of the performances, was also the first of its kind for many members of the cast.

“I had never done any improv or interactive theatre prior to this show, so it was quite challenging for me,” Gaul said. “The hardest thing was responding in character to whatever an audience member did or said to you–you have to be ready for anything. The first couple nights were the most difficult, but it became easier over subsequent performances.”

The show was also the first performance of any kind for a few members of the cast.

“Awesome 80s Prom was my first time ever performing in a show and I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience,” Stangeland said. “Everyone in the cast was wonderful and fun to work with. I enjoyed being a part of this unique production and I can’t wait to audition for more shows in the fall! I appreciate all the audience members that came out and helped us put on our crazy prom every night! It was super fun to be prom king, thanks to those that voted for me. Fender rules!”

Two members of the cast, McFarquhar and Stangeland, were nominated for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship for their performances in Awesome 80s Prom.