Playwright Paul Meloon, a high school English teacher at Caledonia-Mumford Central School, has put a little of his own experience into the district’s upcoming senior class play.
The main character of Meloon’s one-act play, “It’s a Wonderful Play,” needs an idea for a play.
That play “is about the struggle I have at times in coming up with an idea for the next play” said Meloon, who also acts in local community theater productions.
The story continues in the somewhat connected second play, “Detective Dadd.”
The idea for the second play, Meloon said, “came to me when I was backstage with Batavia Players trying to calm my nerves by making dad jokes, those bad puns that dads are known for telling. I thought I could have a character telling these jokes and the story started from there.”
Performances of “It’s a Wonderful Play” and “Detective Dadd” are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 23 and 2 p.m. April 24 in the school auditorium, 99 North St., Caledonia. Tickets are $8.
The performances are open to the public, with face masks required, social distancing observed and limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The senior class play is a tradition at Cal-Mum.
“They are always lighthearted and fun, and are used to raise money for the senior class,” said Meloon, who has been teaching English at Cal-Mum since 2005.
Typically, the production is a two-act play, but this year’s event will feature two one-act plays that are loosely connected.
“It’s a Wonderful Play” is about Kyle Kirby, a character played by Sebastian Kresge, who is trying to come up with an idea for a play. He is about to give up hope and stop writing when he is visited by an angel named Depew, played by Emma Efing.
“You can tell by the title that it shares a similar plot to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ “ said Meloon. “Instead of being visited by Clarence the Angel, he is visited by an angel named Depew. Geographically, Depew is close to Clarence, which is why I chose that name.”
Kyle faces many challenges while writing, including lawyers played by Elyse Fuller and KacKenzie Stetzenmeyer who do not want him using the works of Shakespeare for his plot.
As Kyle’s story develops he reveals his idea for his play, which leads into the “Detective Dadd” play, which is performed as a second act. Hugo Dadd, played by Rowan Nothnagle, is a Sam Spade-type detective who speaks mostly in puns - or “dad jokes.” He is visited by Dina Mite (Abby Richter), who has lost her suitcase which was carrying the Chocolate Malted Falcon.
Meloon directs both plays. He directed 11 plays – he’s up to 16 – before he decided to try his hand at writing. He has written the past five senior class plays.
Past senior class plays from Meloon include “A Midsummer Night’s Bachelor,” a mash-up between Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the reality television show “The Bachelor”; and “Just Another High School Play,” a production about seniors who do not ever show up for rehearsal. He found inspiration for “The Merry Students of Windsor High School” while appearing in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” with Batavia Players.
“The plays are intended to be fundraisers, and I can save money on scripts and royalties if I write them myself,” Meloon said. “They have been very fun and rewarding to write and once rehearsals start I can start to change dialogue or make cuts or additions depending on how many seniors sign up for the play.”
The senior class play is different from the school’s usual spring production, which will not happen this year for a second consecutive year. Last year, students spent three months in rehearsals for the spring musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” only to have school close down the week of the show as the COVID-19 virus arrived in the region.
Meloon, who is not involved with the spring musical, likens the spring musical to Major League Baseball and the senior class play to AAA baseball, the highest level of minor league baseball.
“It’s still entertaining, but not as much glitz and glamour,” he said. “It’s for students who do it for the love of the game.”
The senior class play is usually presented in November, but the pandemic postponed last fall’s production. Once New York state released guidance about school events, Cal-Mum Superintendent Robert Molisani and High School Principal Dr. Rebekah Chenaille, asked if Meloon and the senior class would be interested in a spring production. With high interest from the senior class to either perform or help, rehearsals began in March, working around sports and job schedules.
While sports and jobs have always been a challenge for the production to work around, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges.
Meloon said he had written much of “It’s a Wonderful Play” in 2019.
“So never in my wildest dreams did I plan on having anything that would need the additional requiring of social distancing,” he said.
Rehearsals were conducted with cast and director wearing masks and standing apart. Actors will apply their own stage makeup to limit contact with adults. There is also a bottle of hand sanitizer on stage.
“It’s surreal that we have a bottle of hand sanitizer on stage and no one even thinks it is out of place,” Meloon said. “That’s how ubiquitous they have become.”
Other concessions to the virus include having cast members touch elbows instead of traditional handshakes if needed in the script.
Also, the rehearsal area is cleaned after each session, just as teachers have been cleaning after every class during the school day. Rehearsals were conducted in the band room for the first month and a half as the band and chorus classes moved to the auditorium stage. It’s only in the past week that the show has been working on the stage, though that has meant moving percussion instruments before rehearsal and returning them to their positions after.
Meloon said he is extremely happy to have a theater production at Cal-Mum this year.
“What I love most about the senior play is that not only long-time theater students get involved, but some that had never been on stage before,” Meloon said. “They do it because it sounds fun, or their older sibling was in a play, or they want their senior year to be memorable and they enjoy the experience.”
A Quick Look
WHAT: “It’s a Wonderful Play” and “Detective Dadd,” one-act plays to be performed as the Caledonia-Mumford Central School senior class production.
WHERE: Caledonia-Mumford Central School, 99 North St., Caledonia.
WHEN: 7 p.m. April 23 and 2 p.m. April 24.
TICKETS: $8, with proceeds benefitting the senior class.
INFORMATION: Audience members will be required to wear masks until getting to their seats. Families can sit together, away from other groups. Alternate rows will be used to allow for social distancing. Seats have been marked to allow for people to sit six feet or more apart.