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Live from Capital High School, it's 'Friday Night Live'

Chris Dorst
On Friday, Capital High School will revive its "Friday Night Live" sketch comedy production. Among the students acting, writing, directing and producing the show are (from left) Jonathan Dent, Quiana Washington, Colleen Isaiah, Daniel Calwell, Wesley Radclif, Hannah Jack, Amanda Maynus, Izabel Dorst and Alexis Russell.
WANT TO GO?"Friday Night Live"Presented by Charleston High School Theater DepartmentWHEN: 7:30 p.m. FridayWHERE: Capital High School Performing Arts CenterTICKETS: $10INFO: 304-348-6504 ext.156CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Tuesday afternoon, 20 theater students met in the auditorium at Capital High School to go over skits they've been working on for weeks and to take instruction. That wouldn't seem so strange if school hadn't ended less than two weeks ago or if some of these students weren't recent graduates.But there they were, practicing lines, working on their delivery, fine-tuning blocking and taking direction.On Friday night, Capital revives "Friday Night Live," a sketch comedy extravaganza largely written, directed, produced and performed by students of the school's theater department -- with some oversight by Theater Director Kristopher G. Corbett and several Capital alumni, including Leah Turley, Creative Artistic Director for the Appalachian Artists Collective."This is their show," Turley said. "The less interference, the better."However, as of Tuesday afternoon, the show was still a work in progress. With just a few days to go, the group was running through skits, figuring out where to place them in the show and which of the 25 or so pieces needed to be cut. Some were more or less ready to go, needing only modest adjustment. The group wasn't so sure about other skits.The process seemed vaguely democratic."If we cut something because it's not ready, we can save it for next year," Turley told the crowd.For a high school production, the comedy was pretty bold, occasionally a bit crass, but relatively clean. The only bit that seemed to rattle Turley at all was a bit about Bill Clinton talking about abstinence education.
She wanted to talk a little more about that one, but overall, she thought they had pretty funny stuff."The kids are hilarious," she said.
Funny or not, it was a little odd for everyone to be inside on a summer day, just a week and a half after the school year ended.Amanda Maynus, a rising senior, signed on to spend four hours a day over the last couple of weeks working on the production because she loves theater.The 17-year-old said, "I really want to be part of the longstanding tradition, and I wanted to work with alumni and professionals and maybe get a sense of professional theater in a high school atmosphere."Plus it's fun."
Others in the cast echoed the same feelings. They were excited about resurrecting a show that had been killed off before any of them had taken their first high school class.According to Corbett, "Friday Night Live" ended in 2006, probably as a policy change by the then-theater director. He thought it was too valuable to let it stay dead, though.He said, "I was a part of this when I was a student here, and it was such a great experience for me and for so many others."Corbett said the whole program had practical applications beyond stagecraft and acting."I think it teaches responsibility and organization," he said. "You can learn a lot from having to build something like this from scratch." The show also somewhat serves as a tribute to theater booster president Carla Radcliffe, who died in April. A portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the American Cancer Society in her memory.For some of the recent graduates, like Colleen Isaiah and Mattiese Lawrence, "Friday Night Live" was a chance to get a little more theater experience to take with them as they went on to college.Lawrence, who plans to study technical direction and production at West Virginia State university, said "Friday Night Live" was a great opportunity."Mr. Corbett let me work on the tech side of this. I did set construction, lighting, sound and helped make sure the stage was set up."Isaiah, who is headed to WVU in the fall, saw it as "an end of year opportunity to apply what we've learned here."It was also a chance, they thought, to help set something in motion for others that might come later and help to encourage the students who follow them.Turley said that was important."I'm 27 and the same people who were doing theater when I was 17 are the same people who are doing it now or else they've all moved away. If you want a young, vibrant art community, you have to make a place for it and encourage it."Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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