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30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play’ Has More Reasons to Go See It in Westfield

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
Mia Gordon of Noblesville (left) and Amaya Smith, Westfield, rehearse for the summer youth production, “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play,” at Basile Westfield Playhouse, readying for opening night tonight.

What can go wrong during the production of a play? Just about anything.

Stage kisses, pinkeye, stirring up World War III.

Tanya Haas of Carmel is director of the play, “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” and Tom Smith of Westfield is the producer.

In a series of crazy examples, this play proves that drama can be a very dangerous thing and it must be avoided at all costs.

Haas picked out the play and submitted it to Basile Westfield Playhouse in 2019 when she heard that Westfield Playhouse was in search of someone to direct a youth show for the summer of 2020.

“I enjoy directing youth productions, so I started looking for a show that might work. I have a personal policy when I direct young actors that I only do no-cut shows,” she said.

What’s a no-cut show? “I want any actors who want to be a part of something like this to have that opportunity, no matter their experience level.”

Being an actress herself, Haas knows that “twinge of heartache that comes from not getting cast in a play.” She said, “And I don’t want someone to fell that heartache before they even get a chance to try.”

Haas said Westfield typically does straight plays instead of musicals for the youth show for three reasons.

1) Most of the other local summer youth productions are musicals, especially since they do lend themselves better to larger casts. “Not all students are as gifted musically but still want that summer theater opportunity. This provides that,” she said.

2) Musicals are far more complicated and expensive to produce.

3) Since a lot of the students who want to appear in a summer show have other obligations with family and other activities throughout the summer, this gives them a better chance of being able to be involved, Haas said.

“It’s far simpler to provide the blocking for a play to an actor who has to miss a week of rehearsals because of a family trip than it is to catch them up on choreography,” she said. “It also means less adult volunteers have to be involved in the show, and finding adult help in the summer can also be very tricky.”

So back to finding the play. She said, “I came across the show, and it checked all of the boxes I was looking for. Not knowing how many kids I might have audition makes it tricky to plan for a show and keep my no-cut policy.”

The show, “30 Reasons Not To be in a Play,” Haas said, was written in such a way that it allowed for a cast of 10 or a cast of 30 because there are over 100 individual characters throughout the show that could be mixed and matched to the cast.

(Photo courtesy of Indy Ghost Light Photography)
The cast of “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” rehearses for the summer youth production at Basile Westfield Playhouse, readying for opening night tonight.

The show is also “very funny,” she said. “I am primarily a comedic actress myself, so it’s more of my strong suit.”

Haas also thinks that, in general, “kids just prefer to be funny, especially when they’re taking part in an activity for, well, fun.”

She could visualize the play being performed on stage at the previous Playhouse in Eagletown, so she submitted the play, and it was accepted.

Then 2020 hit, and there was no way to safely produce the show, she said.

The theater, that summer, decided to do a youth production that was all monologues so it could be rehearsed online and staged in a socially distant way and with masks.

Haas wasn’t interested in directing that show but was asked to be the one adult cast member in the show. “The Monologue Show” was the first show presented in the new Westfield Playhouse in August 2020, under careful supervision and safety precautions, she said. For 2021, another youth show had already been submitted and accepted for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” so Haas was asked to move her show to this summer, and she gladly accepted.

The 19 actors range in age from 7-18. While most members of the cast have previous acting experience, there are five younger members who are celebrating their first time on stage.

“Because there are so many characters in the show, I set about the very challenging task of dividing up the characters by difficulty level based on age and experience levels. Those who are on stage for the first time have only 10-12 lines of dialogue to memorize, though they are on stage doing ‘bits’ in many scenes, as well,” she said. “The more experienced actors were given more complicated roles or more characters to cover. Eventually, I feel like I found a perfect balance for the cast I had.”

Kid shows often have siblings involved. In this show, four groups of siblings are in the play, three brothers, a brother and a sister, and two sets of sisters. Haas said those who have no stage experience help each other. And older members of the cast are encouraging and helpful, as well.

“30 Reasons” is Haas’ ninth full-length youth production to direct. She was the drama teacher at Midwest Academy for a couple of years and directed the Academy’s musicals for six years. She directed two Rising Star productions at Carmel Community Players, including this year’s “A Medley of Murders,” and will be directing CCP’s Rising Star production in summer 2023.

Directing youth is something that she just loves. “I have always enjoyed working with children of all ages,” Haas said. While she has a college degree in Psychology and a concentration in Child Development, she was a teacher for many years. She has raised six children, four biological and two by taking guardianship. Two are interested in theater, daughter Kelly, who is in her 20s, and son, Charlie, readying to turn 18, who had a band camp conflict that prevented him from being in the show.

She currently enjoys being a stay-a-home mom but uses time for volunteer work and to spend time with her older kids.

Haas attributes her ease at being in charge, as a director, to having both of her parents as teachers.

She communicates with the cast members at their level. “I speak to the teenagers as equals, and the younger children I try to encourage and use my ‘mom voice’ to let them know they are doing a great job.”

Haas, who is on the CCP board of directors, is involved with Basile Westfield Playhouse mostly because she has a lot of friends on the board.

While she has acted in four productions at Basile Westfield Playhouse, this is her first time to direct there.

“I love being involved in theater because I meet so many amazing people through the productions … I enjoy the challenge of creating a character and bringing it to life.”

She gets a satisfaction from watching young actors discover their own talents and “seeing them get that rush from being on stage and the joy when they hear the applause.

Haas said kids involved in theater gives students a leg up as it builds poise, confidence and the ability to present in front of a group.

What will audiences like about this show? “This show is just plain silly,” she said. People who participate in theater will recognize some of the “Reasons” for not being in a play. Haas said, “I find reasons to laugh at every rehearsal.”

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want to GO?

What: Main Street Productions presents “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play,” a summer youth production.
When: Opens today and continues through Aug. 7. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Basile Westfield Playhouse, 220 N. Union St., Noblesville.
How much: $17, ages 18 and older; $15, ages 62 and older and students with ID; free to active military and vets with ID.
Upcoming: Auditions, for ages 18 and older, for “The Curious Savage” are 7-9 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
Info or reservations: https://www.westfieldplayhouse.org/

Meet the CAST

Harrison Coon , Ella Crites, Clayton Crocker, Livy Crocker, Westfield; Blake Fortier;  Dylan Fortier Westfield, Sammy Geis, Westfield; Mia Gordon, Noblesville; Neil Hackman, Carmel; Isabella Hasseld, Westfield; Owen Hilger, Noblesville; Anastasia Hobbs, Fishers; Tatyana Hobbs, Fishers; Mason Yeater, Owen Yeater and Quinn Yeater, all of Cicero.

Meet the CREW

Director, Tanya Haas, Carmel; producer, Tom Smith, Westfield; light design, Eric Matters, New Palestine; sound design, Tanya Haas; light and sound operator, Nora Coon, Westfield; set construction and decoration, Tanya Haas, Tom Smith and Jen Otterman.