FHS theater bringing vastly different productions to stage this fall

This fall two very different theatrical productions will make audiences smile — and maybe even think a little.

At the end of August, Molly Deakins, senior, stood at the top of the Ferguson Theater in the red wing of Farragut High School. She shouted directions down to cast members as they rehearsed for the September musical, “Theory of Relativity.” As they sang musical director Kyla Johnson, also a senior, helped her peers.

Deakins, daughter of Thomas and Kim Deakins, and Johnson, daughter of Kevin and Marisa Johnson, are directing the musical as a sort of senior project, although they won’t be earning any school credit.

Seated on a riser to the side were theater teacher Lea McMahan and Kim Deakins, faculty advisor, FHS employee and Molly’s mother. They are hands-off, though: this musical is completely student-run.

“This musical was serendipitous for me and Kyla,” Molly Deakins said. “We found it at the right time after shuffling through over 30 different musicals, and it seemed to be a perfect fit for our department.”

The musical uses songs of different styles to tell the story.

“Some musical challenges have been overcoming difficult harmonies with so many voice parts and teaching it all on a keyboard,” Johnson said. “It’s been surprisingly easy with all the different styles because we have an extremely talented cast, but I’ve tried to tie in my choir and musical theater experience to get the sound I think works best for each song.”

“The human story drew me to this show,” Molly Deakins said. “Often musicals are a big production that is hard to connect to, but this show has such a unique storyline and it’s a story everyone can relate to.”

“I’ve had to sit in on a few rehearsals as a faculty advisor,” Kim Deakins said. “Every single rehearsal, I’m just amazed at how much I like it. These kids are so talented and the music is so inspirational and real. I’ve gotten chills every time. It’s a newer musical. It’s more storytelling from different people’s perspectives instead of one continuous perspective. Certain actors play multiple parts. It’s kind of a finding yourself [story] about what different people struggle with. I’m really proud of those kids.”

Including directors, stage managers and costume people, about 22 students are involved. “Theory of Relativity” will be performed starting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, and Saturday, Sept. 23, and beginning at 3 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24. Tickets are $8 at the door of Ferguson Theater.

At the same time, theater teacher Lea McMahan is rehearsing with another group of students for the October performance of “ONLINE FIGHTING,” a play by Harrison Young. Young is a theater graduate from The University of Tennessee who lived in New York for a few years before coming back in Tennessee.

“It’s an action-comedy about two video gamers rekindling a feud,” Harrison said. “What starts off as fun-and-games online quickly becomes a battle of jealousy and redemption offline, especially when loved ones get involved. Realism, absurdity and stage combat blend together for a story that will entertain non-gamers and hardcore gamers alike.”

Anna Grace Gragg is an actor and stage manager.

“I play the role of the reporter, Jerri Farris,” she said. “The entire concept is so creative … I really love how lighthearted the show is, yet the character are believable and dynamic.”

“I think it’s going to be really cool. The fighting scenes have been super fun to perform and watch,” actor Hannah Varner said. “I couldn’t be more excited to get to perform and work through this play.

“I met Lea through ONLINE FIGHTING,” Young said. “She had seen a few of its past Knoxville productions, including its latest one at Gibbs High School from April this year. GHS’s play director and super-friend Crystal Braeuner introduced us, and the rest went exactly the way I wish more play submissions went. Lea’s going to be a great leader for this 10th production of ONLINE FIGHTING and her students seem real excited too, so I can’t wait for opening night.”

Young said he wanted to do a show that revolved around fighting. “I mean fights-on-fights-on-fights, a real showcase for people who wanted to look like they could whoop somebody,” he said.

“I focused my stage combat goals around that classic sometimes-true writing rule: write about what you know,” Young added. “I chose video games as my theme since the fighting genre is popular — think Street Fighter or Super Smash Brothers — and suddenly I had a lot of room to create one-of-a-kind fights for an audience. Ever seen a pirate fight a ninja while petty video gamers argue over girlfriends and Applebee’s? Welcome to ONLINE FIGHTING.”

Tickets are $8 at the door for performances beginning at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-28, and 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 29, in Ferguson Theater.