By Hannah Lester
Next weekend, Auburn Area Community Theatre will open its production of “End Days”.
The show, which is based in the aftermath of 9/11, will focus on a dysfunctional family coping with the tragedy of 2001.
Andrea Holliday, AACT’s artistic director, said she has wanted to perform “End Days” for a while, but felt it should be performed around 9/11. And this year — the show will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“This play is set a couple of years after 9/11 and we want people to know that it’s a comedy but it’s really hard to shop a comedy about 9/11,” Holliday said. “This family has been wounded. They’ve lost touch with each other. They don’t understand each other. They don’t even talk to each other. And this weird little dysfunctional family that’s been traumatized by 9/11, you learn these facts one at a time.”
The show is a small cast performance with only six performers. But they have been preparing since June, three nights a week.
“This particular show and I think the reason that we chose it, was coming out of a pandemic, we were just wanting to put our toe in the water and test and see what the audience’s response is going to be,” said Director Steve Bice. “I’m curious.”
For many of the performers in this small show, this is not their first foray with AACT.
Jackson Wells, who is playing Nelson in the show, attended a theatre camp with AACT eight years ago. And this is one of his first shows with adult cast members, rather than with other young performers.
Sadie Sawyer, who will play Rachel in the show, performed in her first AACT production as a child, playing a Dalmation with 101 Dalmatians in 2011. “When I was too old to be in the children’s shows … I got roped into helping with the kids’ shows,” she said. “And then the Jungle Book came along.”
At that point, Sawyer took on a role of stage managing for five shows. Eventually, she stepped back into a role as an actress.
Speaking of stage managers, Camren Lyon-Toles will be serving as the “End Days” stage manager.
“I really like the script and I really like watching actors do their thing,” he said.
David Carter, who will play Arthur in “End Days”, said that although he hadn’t acted since high school, after seeing an AACT performance in 2010, he was hooked. “End Days” is his first non-musical performance in years.
Sawyer said one of the difficulties of the show is identifying with her character.
“For me, trying to remember everything that my character’s been through, because my character’s seen a lot of trauma and a lot of different things in his life, but he’s always upbeat about everything,” Wells said, agreeing about identifying with his character. “And so, it’s hard acting upbeat but then you also have to remember these certain things that happened in his past, so when you’re acting and you’re trying to play it upbeat, you also have to remember there’s this level of him that you also have to remember and kind of that bit of him will keep creeping up at different parts in the story.”
The family may be dysfunctional, but Carter joked that seeing how dysfunctional the “End Days” family was allowed him to be grateful his own life and family aren’t reflected in that.
The cast, however, have been able to work together and get to know one another as they prepare for the four-day show.
“It’s just a great group of people who work really hard,” Carter said. “It’s quite professional but it’s also just a great [group of] people who look out for each other and care about each other.”
The show will run from Aug. 19-21 at 7 p.m. and again on Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center, 222 E Drake Ave.
“When you tell the story, people can leave inspired, you can make them feel things,” Sawyer said.