Defying Gravity Defies Expectations, Goes to State
March 22, 2017 By:Hunter Watson
(The Piper, March 2017, By Rebecca Amerino)
Although it was performed in November, McNary’s Defying Gravity is getting another chance to be on stage at the State competition. Out of eleven plays, Defying Gravity if one of two that are going to state, held at the Elsinore Theater in Salem. “None of us really expected it… It was a little bit of a shock,” said McNary junior, Isabella Fox. Fox is the main actor in Defying Gravity, playing a teacher in the Eighties chosen to go up into space in the Challenger.
Going to the State competition presents an opportunity for more people to see the play. According to Fox, the maximum number of people that attended the play in November was a hundred at best, but at State, 1,300 other thespians will be watching the production. “They will be there for us,” Fox said. “Because the whole crowd is thespians, [I think] they’ll be able to engage differently.”
Fox drew from her character and saw a lot of her own traits in those of the teacher. “She’s [the teacher] overall a very bubbly character. . . and I feel like we were somewhat similar,” she said. Fox struggled with the bubbliness of her character because she was an actual person. “You don’t want to skew who she was; you don’t want to do her a disservice,” she said. She also struggled with her character’s accent. She was from Boston, Massachusetts, and Fox could never really get the voice down.
Fox’s favorite scene is one with the bartender, Donna, played by senior Annie Purkey. In this scene, Fox’s character is trying to get Donna over her fear of heights by having her stand on a stool. During this, the teacher begins to understand why Donna was afraid. “It was her first moment of pure weakness,” Fox said. The role also taught her about herself. “She’s a mom, and I’ve never had to experience that. I had to kind of grow up for the part,” Fox said. Senior McKinley Friesen is Fox’s daughter in the play. She’s as surprised as Fox that the play made it to State. “I’m extremely excited and nervous to go to state. I always knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t think it would actually happen,” Friesen said.
As a senior, Friesen wanted to audition for all of the plays this year, making the most of her last year here, but she also was interested in this story in particular. “I read the play last year and really fell in love with the story,” she said. As one of the only characters that talks to the audience, with almost all her lines talking to the audience, Friesen’s part in the play is an interesting one. “I’ve always thought that it was really interesting that Elizabeth [her character] almost explicitly talks to the audience because she uses them almost as a therapist in the situation,” she said. “In this version, Elizabeth is an adult reliving and retelling everything that happened through her eyes as a kid, so I think it’s important that she brings the audience in with her.” Friesen also finds the fact that really the only character Elizabeth talks to being her mom is very telling.
“I hope that people who experienced the event in 1986 remember how it felt and remember the hope that Christa [the main character of the story] held,” Friesen said. “I also hope that people who weren’t alive for the event [not only] realize the gravity of the situation for the U.S. but also see the legacy and progress it created.” Fox hopes that people leave uplifted. “It’s a really heartwarming play,” she said. According to Fox, there’s lots of relationships from all points of view, and it’s crazy to see how they all mold into one piece.