The Los Alamos High School Olions take their production of Monty Python’s “Spamalot” on the road next weekend to compete in the Popejoy Awards.
Not only has “Spamalot” been nominated in the categories of Best High School Production, Best Director (LAHS theater teacher David Daniel) and Best Ensemble, but three actors from the show have been nominated as Best Actor/Best Actress. Devon McCleskey (King Arthur), Camille Rousculp (Patsy) and Max Herrmann (Lancelot) will compete to participate in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, the Jimmys, in New York City.
“It’s the young man’s Tonys,” quipped Hermann. “Young person’s,” reminded Rousculp. Wednesday’s interview at the Duane Smith Auditorium paused while everyone searched for a one syllable word for “person.”
According to the Popejoy Awards website (http://www.popejoyawards.org/) the goal of the Awards is “to inspire and honor excellence in high school musical theater, and to recognize the importance of musical theater and arts education. We will use a competitive adjudication process to find the highest caliber of high school musical theater talent in New Mexico.”
“We’re honored to be among the first nominees for this award. It began this year,” Daniel said. “We’re one of five high schools from all over the state to be nominated.”
Since all three nominated performers are seniors this year, they feel lucky to compete in the first annual award competition.
Next weekend, the cast will take part in workshops with theater professionals. Individual nominees will participate in a week of workshops. The finale is a performance at Popejoy Hall at 6:30 p.m. May 8. The cast of “Spamalot” and the four other finalists will perform a scene from their shows and the individual nominees will sing solos.
This is Daniel’s first year at LAHS. He comes from a writing background (he holds a degree in rhetoric and writing from the University of Texas, Austin) but has been involved in drama since he was a kid.
“I was surprised at how much passion there was for theater here,” he said. “The Olions bowled me over. What impresses me about the Olions is that when you give them a challenge, they just eat it up. It makes me want to keep up the Olions traditions.”
The Olions, founded in 1954, is unique among high school drama clubs because it’s by the students for the students, Daniel said.
Daniel is excited to have been nominated in the Best Director Category. This is his directing debut. “I’m hands on, rather than process oriented,” he said. “The kids have an unflappable spirit and no one holds back.” Producing the show was even more of a challenge, Daniel said. “I discovered producers don’t get the credit they deserve!”
Daniel is even more excited for his students. “This is a pathway for our students to be on a national stage. It’s a big deal,” he said.
Of the three, only McCleskey wants a full-time career on the stage. In addition to his acting and singing talents, he has taken the male lead in a number of New Mexico Dance Theatre productions. McCleskey will attend the University of Michigan to study musical theater next year. McCleskey is not only excited by the prospect of competing on the national stage, but by the opportunity to work with theater professionals and to meet theater people from around New Mexico.
Rousculp will study neuroscience at UCLA next year. She hopes to keep on with theater as well. In her role as Patsy, Rousculp had the challenge of performing a part traditionally done by a man. It wasn’t that much of a stretch except for the solo, which is “in a strange key.” She’s excited by the opportunity to perform in on stage at the Popejoy.
Herrmann will travel to Montana State University to pursue a four-year nursing degree. He feels his acting background will really help him in his chosen career, not only because of the voice training, but because of the confidence being on stage has given him.
Hermann was a bit surprised to be chosen for the competition since Lancelot doesn’t have a solo in “Spamalot” either as a dancer or a singer. “I’m nervous but I’m excited, too,” he said. “I’m not really a singer or a dancer, but I love to act!” Hermann found the character of Lancelot easy to relate to, he said. “Lancelot is always kind of confused, so he acts bold to cover it up. That’s what I do in real life!”
The actors and director credited the “fantastic” tech staff, both from the Olions and from the Duane Smith and the mostly student orchestra, for helping make “Spamalot” a nominee for the Popejoy Awards.
Daniel urged community members to come to the Albuquerque performance and cheer for the home team! The performance is at 6:30 p.m. May 8 in Popejoy Hall. Tickets are $5 for students up to $25 for support seats available at http://www.popejoyawards.org/ or by calling 877.664.8661.
There are a couple more chances to see the Popejoy Award nominated production of “Spamalot” this weekend: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Duane Smith Auditorium. Tickets for Spamalot are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $5 for children 5 and under.
“We want everyone to see that the theater program at Los Alamos High School is on the rise!” Daniel said.