Streaming soon in a galaxy nearby, OHHS Drama Club offers audiences an entertaining respite

— Created March 3, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Not even a global pandemic can beat creativity and humor when it comes to the upcoming film project “Star Princess Wars,” a comedy put on by Oak Harbor High School’s Drama Club and streaming free on Broadway on Demand March 19-27.

Those who love the classic films “Star Wars,” “The Princess Bride” and even “Spaceballs” are in for a treat.

“The show is a mashup of “Star Wars” and “The Princess Bride,” with all the goofiness of the original “Star Wars“ spoof, “Spaceballs,” said drama club advisor Micki Gibson, who is directing the project with volunteer advisor, Eric George. “We are streaming it because we were doubtful we would be able to even perform it live, much less rehearse in person with blocking, so we made the call early on to record, edit and then stream it.”

The play, written by Don Zolidis, has been a challenging production from the very beginning, due to restrictions in place for COVID-19. Auditions were done by video, with students performing a comic monologue then portraying five different emotions as either a cow, duck or an alien. Gibson and George, along with a volunteer panel of five teachers from the high school, judged the auditions.

“We needed to see who would be gutsy enough to go for the physical comedy,” Gibson explained. “All rehearsals were virtual. With ever-changing guidelines and restrictions, any attempts to have in-person rehearsals would have ultimately been cancelled. Rehearsals were fairly easy. Scheduling for filming – THAT has been the challenge.”

Filming began in December, but Gibson said they had to work around schedules, bearing in mind community COVID numbers, keeping student groups small and filming outdoors as much as possible.

“But having a group of happy kids along for the ride, especially now that they can see the finish line, has made it so worth it,” she said.

“Because of the requirements for students in a single area, we had to break the show down and tweak and tweak to fit whoever we could without breaking social distancing,” George added. “When doing a show on stage you have everyone there, making scheduling a lot simpler.”

Members of the drama club are obviously used to performing on a stage. The shift to making this a filmed production has been a huge learning experience for advisors and students alike.

“The biggest learning curve has been to get in the frame of mind to treat this show as if you are making a movie,” George said. “You have to take off the stage glasses and look at it from a larger scale. I have a newfound respect for what goes into making a Hollywood blockbuster movie.”

“I think the students also learned a lot more about filming as well,” said Gibson. “I think the strange thing for them was doing scenes out of sequence based on what costume they were in and which scene partners were available at the time.”

“Performing for a camera versus a live audience is definitely a unique experience,” said junior Alora Van Auken, who plays the villain Mordra and Special Effects Person.

“With a live audience, every show is different, depending on the reaction, mood and amount of people,” she said. “I think that’s what gives live acting a thrill, knowing that you can’t mess up and the nerves of performing in front of people. With performing for a camera, it is more laid back because if you mess up you can just refilm that part (not too many times of course) and there is no audience to give you that pressure of putting on a show.”

Junior AJ Gibson said while he has enjoyed the project and his role as Bo Blaster, whom he described as a cross between Han Solo from “Star Wars” and Westley from “The Princess Bride,” performing for a camera is a very different experience.

“On stage you’re filled with a nervous energy because you’ve gotta either get it right or be able to improvise to the point where the show’s back on track,” he said. “In front of the camera, it’s alright if you mess up a line, but everyone’s a lot more appreciative if you get it right the first time you so you can all move on to filming the next scene.”

“Filming leaves room for mistakes like a misplaced prop or a forgotten line, and we do spend more time together as a cast, but I really miss the excitement of live theater,” said freshman Maggie Garrett, who plays Archer (think Fred Savage’s character in “The Princess Bride”) and XJ-188E, a killer robot.

There are a total of 13 cast members and five production crew members for this project, many of the cast playing multiple roles. As it is a student-led production, the filming has fallen on students as well. Gibson said junior Stuart Bassett deserves a shout out for his efforts on the project.

“I’m not sure if he realized what a huge undertaking this would be, but he has been professional and absolutely wonderful to work with,” she said. “He has brought a different perspective and so we’ve treated this more as a film. The performance part has been more time consuming in that at points Stuart has to shoot the same scene from multiple angles or even on different days, based on who was able to be there.”

The end product, said cast and crew, is a unique viewing experience that should produce a lot of smiles and laughs.

“Everybody in this show worked really hard to make it possible, and all we want is to bring a little comfort to this time of discomfort,” Van Auken said. “Plus, it’s a free movie! Why not?”

“Our team put a lot of work and time into putting this show together and figuring out how we could do everything safely,” said Garrett, “I really enjoy the comedy in this show. I think it can really appeal to anyone and it certainly added unstoppable laughter to several rehearsals.”

“Fans of both “Star Wars” and “Princess Bride” movies will get all the inside jokes as well as laugh at all the pop culture references, and how it takes both movies and flips them on their heads,” said George.

“It’s “Star Wars” and “The Princess Bride” smushed together and put on by tired high schoolers out in the cold, and it’s free,” said AJ. “Do you really want to miss that absurd combination of stuff? The answer is no, you don’t wanna miss it.”

“It is fun, it is silly, it has multigenerational appeal, and it showcases some very talented OHHS students. And it’s proof that a pandemic might knock the performing arts out for a bit, but we will find a way and persevere.”

“Star Princess Wars” will stream on demand from March 19-27 at no charge on Broadway on Demand, so those interested can watch whenever it’s convenient for them. While the film is free, the OHHS Drama Club will happily accept donations. To stream, visit–oak-harbor-high-school-drama-club.