Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City will put on the comic murder-mystery play “Who’s Next?” on May 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. The cast of 12 students has been rehearsing after school since January.
To avoid the expense of licensing an existing play, English teacher and director Randy Pradera wrote “Who’s Next?” himself. He said sometimes plays need more adjustments for a freshman cast and audience, and he decided writing one would be easier and require less editing.
Dawn Cardona, a reading teacher at West New York Middle School, and Jose Marti Freshman Academy Principal Rudy Baez helped Pradera write and edit the story. Cardona also helped with the shopping and set painting.
“Who’s Next?” takes place in a lodge to which all the characters have been invited for different reasons. As the story progresses, characters get mysteriously killed, one by one. The writers and editors made sure to add silly jokes and references to make it comedy-worthy.
“I added a lot of corny jokes,” Pradera said. “It’s cute.”
“I like the idea of building a new character by figuring out what a character can be and what they can do.” – Erin Greene
Pradera added, “I even edited some parts of the Shakespeare play to make it more approachable for freshman. This year we were going to do ‘Ten Little Indians’ by Agatha Christie, but it’s also a little dry, and there’s a lot of smoking and drinking.”
Breaking in young actors
“We started having plays two years ago,” Pradera said, “because students would go off to audition at Union City High School and wouldn’t get the part, because they had no experience.” For that reason Pradera offered tenth graders from UCHS the chance to audition for roles in “Who’s Next?”
One tenth grader from UCHS, Jacob Andres Raphael Perez Lopez, 16, played in “Midsummer’s Night Dream” last year when he was a freshman at Jose Marti.
“I wanted to come back because of the fact that it’s a comedy, and I had fun last year,” he said. “I had free time on my hands, and I like spending it with Pradera. He’s a good director.” Lopez said he plays a “moronic jock, that’s everything I’m not.” He described his character Wyatt Wilcott as mean and obnoxious.
Analeeze Massa, 16, a tenth grader from UCHS, said she tried out again because she had fun last year. “I love working with Pradera and Cardona. The whole concept of mystery, and every character having their own piece to can relate to someone is fun.”
Erin Greene, 14, is a freshman at Jose Marti. “I tried out, because Pradera is my English teacher,” she said. “He talked about the different characters and it caught my attention. I wanted to do something after school. I want to join the theatre club in high school, because I like the idea of building a new character by figuring out what a character can be and what they can do.”
She added, “The majority of my family are coming, because they don’t live in the area. My aunt is coming from another state.”
Principal Baez said he was excited about the upcoming performance. “This is a good group of kids, and the teacher did a great job putting it together. They’ve never had the opportunity to get into theatre here, and we’ve appreciated it ever since. They have my full support. It’s for the kids, and they enjoy it. It brings them out of their comfort zone, and that’s what education is all about.”
Kevin Acosta, 15, a freshman at Jose Marti said, “We worked the hardest on the set. We spent hours painting, and making a reception desk. It helped us bond. I’d like to say to the cast, thanks for the memories.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door of Jose Marti Freshman Academy cafeteria at 1800 Summit Ave, Union City Friday and Saturday May 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. for $5 for students and $10 for adults.
Samantha Meyers can be reached at email@example.com .