This weekend, get ready to book a stay in Hotel Suite, the newest theatrical work by Carle Place High School’s Fine and Performing Arts Department.
The show also serves as a homecoming of sorts for the production’s director, Edward Brennan. Brennan is a part-time adjunct teacher for Carle Place, returning after a self-imposed eight-year hiatus while running a not-for-profit theater in Suffolk County called Airport Playhouse. He had previously been with the school district for 16 years, and eventually found himself itching to return.
“I had directed a summer production that used a lot of high school-age performers, and I realized how much I missed working with this age group,” he said. “Joni Russo called me about returning, I was available…it was perfect timing.”
Hotel Suite is a conglomeration of three Neil Simon’s plays, made up of multiple comedic segments that all take place in a hotel setting.
“The three plays this production is based on are Plaza Suite, California Suite and London Suite,” he said. “They’re all three self-contained plays with no connection to each other. Neil Simon published a script that takes the best parts and scenes out of all three plays and formed it into this fourth play, Hotel Suite.”
Hotel Suite represents a complex production that would have most directors sweating at the idea of trying to helm it. However, that complexity is what attracted Brennan to it.
“I chose this play because it gives a lot of students a chance to be a part of the production. We’re utilizing 30 students in a straight play and we decided to double-cast it,” said Brennan. “On Friday night there will be one cast and on Saturday night there will be a different cast in the same roles. We actually had 30 students audition, so that’s why we made the decision to double-cast it instead of cutting anyone. We thought we would give everyone a chance to get to know me again since I just came back.”
In addition, Brennan said that the rehearsal schedule for Hotel Suite represents a difficult hurdle, as the play consists of multiple scenes that are all self-contained; therefore, instead of practicing with all his actors en masse, Brennan rehearses one scene per night in order to focus solely on that individual segment.
“We do it once for one cast, then flip and do it again with the next cast, and then we do it over and over again,” he said. “It’s very challenging and time-consuming, but it’s giving the kids a lot of chances to participate.”
Junior Kristen Byron plays the part of “Sharon,” a mother in a two-person segment entitled “Going Home,” and said that her experience with Brennan has thus far prepared her well for an extremely difficult role.
“I’m so happy to have the chance to work with him,” Byron said. “This show is really fun and it’s a challenge since it’s a comedic drama. There’s absolutely no musical numbers in it. In my part there’s only two people on stage—the mother and her daughter—and the dialogue is really long, with no songs breaking it up. But it’s been a great experience, and it’s made me realize that it’s not just music, but acting, that I love.”
Gina Andro, also a junior, has acted in many school musicals, but Hotel Suite represents her first purely dramatic role.
“It’s very different from things I’ve done in the past, due to the lack of music, but I’m really glad that I did it because it’s going to help me grow as an actress,” Andro said.
Joni Russo, chairperson of fine and performing arts at Carle Place High School, was beside herself at the opportunity to lure Brennan back into the fold. She noted that he will also be heading up the school’s next production as well, Monty Python’s Spamalot, slated for 2015.
“It’s fabulous, absolutely fabulous to have Ed back,” she said. “It’s calm, it’s professional and it’s wonderful. I’ve worked with Ed on other things and I’ve known him a very long time, and I love the way that he works with kids. It’s a joy to have him back.”
“It’s like I never left, quite frankly,” Brennan said of his return. “We got right back into the groove. All of the students are different, but there’s so many similarities between the students of eight years ago. I find the kids of Carle Place to be hard-working, dedicated, curious and willing to go along for the ride and try anything that we want to try. It really doesn’t feel like anything so much different.”
Hotel Suite hits the Carle Place High School stage Dec. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 516-622-6432.