The play will have two casts performing on alternate nights. "They are very different, with different takes, and they're both phenomenal," said THS Drama Director Saundra Bouchie.
At the beginning of the 1987 film of William Goldman's novel "The Princess Bride," a young boy is skeptical about the tale his grandfather is about to tell him. "Has it got any sports in it?" he asks.
"Are you kidding?" Grandpa responds. "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles." The story of the beautiful Buttercup and her one true love Westley has all of those things and more.
A theatrical adaptation of the eminently quotable film (as in "As you wish") comes to the Taos High School stage tonight (Feb. 21) for a two-week run, with 7 p.m. performances through Saturday (Feb. 23) and Feb. 28 through March 2. All shows will be at the Taos High School Little Theater on the school's campus at 134 Cervantes Street.
THS Drama Director Saundra Bouchie adapted the screenplay for the stage.
"When classes started last fall, I asked the students what plays were on their wish lists. When they said 'Princess Bride,' I was thrilled. It's always been my favorite movie. Then, William Goldman died in November, and it seemed like a fitting tribute."
The play will have two casts performing on alternate nights. "They are very different, with different takes, and they're both phenomenal," Bouchie said. "The class has all levels of experience working together. Some of the students are veterans, and some have never been in a play before. It is fun to watch the more experienced students show the new students the ropes."
Ryan Kipnis will be playing the heroine Buttercup in both casts. "'The Princess Bride' has always been one of my favorite stories," Kipnis said. "I have been dreaming of playing Buttercup since I was 4. Thanks to Saundra Bouchie's tireless dedication, I now have the opportunity. This show is so much fun, and I hope the audience enjoys it as much as I do."
Buttercup's true love Westley will be portrayed by J. Ryan Cox in one cast, and by Kelden Larsen in the other.
"This is my first time playing a lead role, and it's been wild," Larsen said. "Drama has always been a fun class, and no day is ever the same."
Said Cox, "I find the role to have many layers to it, combining a calm demeanor with complex emotion. I hope the public will enjoy what we have to offer."
Miel Tafoya and Leah Epstein share the role of Inigo Montoya, the fencing Spaniard out to avenge his father's murder. Fans of the movie certainly remember the line, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
"I'm excited to be a part of such an iconic and well-known play," Tafoya said. "I look forward to opening night. Until then, I'm off to storm the castle!" Epstein, a senior, told us she has been with the drama class since her freshman year. "It has definitely been a highlight of my high school experience! I am beyond excited for this play, especially because I get to sword fight!"
Taos artist Travis Webb has choreographed the play's epic duels. "'Princess Bride' is every stage-fighting choreographer's dream," Webb said. "You're dealing with three master sword fighters coming from three distinct backgrounds, meaning three distinct styles. There is a playfulness in the story that gives a lot of room for expressing those character traits."
Sasha Kushner and Shawn Yardman both play the cunning villain Vizzini, memorable for his frequent exclamations of "Inconceivable!"
Ninth-grader Kushner has been acting since early childhood. "I love every part of it. I also dance ballet, and I love the feeling of performing onstage for lots of people. Being able to take a drama class has been a dream come true."
"He was my favorite character from the movie so I'm glad I got to play him," said Yardman. "I really enjoy being able to be a character who overthinks things like I do sometimes, but is confident, which I am not."
In the film, the tale within the tale is framed by a grandfather reading to his sick grandson. This production has a grandmother, played by McKenzie Henderson in both casts, and granddaughters played by Yanni Flaherty and Jocelyn Gutierrez.
"I am an aspiring actress that loves theater," Henderson said. "I love being on the stage bringing entertainment to others."
Said Flaherty, "Drama is a good way to form a community between people that would never even speak otherwise. It is a way to have fun and make friends."
"Being part of the drama program at Taos High is just like initiating yourself into a family of people who feel at home when they put their skills together," Gutierrez said.
The scheming Prince Humperdinck is played by Josh Gonzales and Owen Donovan. "I have had an amazing time with this amazing cast of characters," Gonzales said.
Humperdinck's partner in crime, the six-fingered Count Rugen, is played by Ana Soma Bianga in one cast and Julian Collignon in the other. "I've always loved the performing arts, and acting is my passion," said Bianga.
Aedin Miller and Dominic Rodríguez both play Fezzik the giant. "I'm excited to play this part," said Rodriguez.
Ninth grader Eliza Engle doubles as the mother and Queen Bella in both casts. "Working on this play has been a huge team effort," she said.
Laugh, and maybe cry
Yellin, head of Prince Humperdinck's spy network, is played in both casts by Dakota Kwiecinski. "Drama has always been my forte throughout high school," Kwiecinski said. "I hope I do more plays in college."
Anakaela Trujillo plays the fierce booing woman in Buttercup's nightmare. "It's been really fun, and my character is out of my comfort zone because I wouldn't usually yell at someone." Acclaimed vocalist Trujillo will also be singing the movie's theme song, "Storybook Love," to open each performance.
Lorenzo Sanchez plays both the King and Albino. "I hope the audience will have a good laugh and maybe cry a little bit!"
Sophomore Grace Kriegshauser plays the hilarious Clergyman. "I have loved performing since the first time I got up in front of a crowd in first grade," she said.
Additional roles are played by Issac Plaster, Serena Aragon, Reyes Santistevan, Lilith Safford, Adelaide Driver and Veroniz Zarazua.
Behind the scenes, the production is kept afloat by a hardworking crew. Stage manager Elizabeth Withers is assisted by Jorja Sanchez and Zilla Prato. Lights are handled by JJ Spencer-Nowak, sound by Aedin Miller, props by Autumn Trujillo and tech by Alex Clark. Isabella O'Donnell, Adelaide Driver and Kailey Conklin work on costume, and Tiffany Kauffman and Cassie Sanchez are doing makeup.
"The kids are doing a fantastic job," said Bouchie. "I'd love for everybody to come and support the arts and see how much great work has been put in. Parents, the community, everyone at the school has stepped up to make this happen. I'm excited about the show. It's a treat."
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