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High school wraps up theater season this weekend

The Hastings High School theater department will wrap up its theater season this weekend with "Mandate for Murder," a comedic play about politics, murder and mystery.

"Mandate for Murder" will place at the high school's auditorium from Friday, April 30, through Sunday, May 2.

Robin Starch, the play's artistic director, said while sifting for possible scripts for the high school's spring play, she was looking specifically for a comedy.

"I like to offer a variety of theatrical formats for students," Starch said, noting that the department's last production

"Sweet Bells Jangled," an original one-act play by former Hastings High School graduate Andy Langenfeld

focused on the darker sides of high school adolescence.

Starch calls "Mandate for Murder" a "political-murder-mystery-comedy."

"Mandate for Murder" takes place on election night when a politician's aide shows up dead at the politician's birthday and election party. In this "who-dun-it" play, all the guests, friends and family find themselves suspected of murder.

Starch said "Mandate for Murder" requires a little bit of interaction and participation from audience members, who will be sitting onstage on risers surrounding the acting area as part of the play's theater-in-the-round format.

Theater in the round presents particular problems for actors and crew members, Starch said, due to the fact that actors at all times will have their backs facing at least some members of the audience.

"It's different," Starch said, "When you're acting in the theater in the round, you have to make sure that you're facing all four sides of where the audience is sitting and that you're not blocking any of the actors."

It also allows, however, for particularly intimate and realistic dynamic staging, she said.

"The acting is smaller," Starch said. "With a comedy, this makes it challenging because when you hear them laugh, you actually see them laugh."