When it comes to prolific and popular playwrights, Neil Simon is in a league of his own. His witty writing paired with excellent character development and timeless themes makes him a stand-out in his genre.
Scotts Valley High School’s theater matriarch Kendra Kannegaard has a sweet nostalgia for one of Simon’s pieces, “Rumors,” which ran for nearly a year on Broadway—not only because of the material, but also because it was the first play that she directed on her own at SVHS in 2014.
“I’ve learned so much in the 10 years since, and I’ve been waiting for the right group of students to do this show because it is so difficult,” Kannegaard said.
Her directorial growth has come full circle as she and her students in the Drama Department present Simon’s “Rumors” at the SVHS campus beginning Thursday, Nov. 30, through Dec. 9.
Kannegaard, who teamed up with student director Violet Palmer for this production, is a fan of the play’s story and execution.
“The comedic timing has to be just right or else the whole thing comes crashing down,” Kannegaard said. “We have students from every grade level in this production, which I love. The story is challenging and very fun, but there are a lot of themes running through the show—loss, confusion, secrecy and mental anguish. It’s not just a straight comedy, so it takes a lot of discipline to be part of this production.”
The story is a what’s-what of mishaps during an evening of celebration: an accidental shooting, discussions about affairs, an appearance by the police and a dinner party gone sideways, all leading to plenty of rumors swirling through the night.
The high school’s cast and crew of students have been working on this funny, farcical story since the beginning of September; in fact, so many actors wanted to participate in SVHS’ fall play that Kannegaard created dual casts (the Newman Cast and the Green Cast).
“It’s a huge labor of love, and so many kids are involved—artists and athletes and certified drama kids. I’m very proud of the work they’ve put into this production,” Kannegaard said.
The kids are equally proud of the time and effort they’ve invested in this show.
Senior Ava Kreer is the student producer and plays Chris Gorman in the production, and she’s excited about bringing this story to life on the stage.
“Having so many wonderful actors and a double cast lets us work with our counterpart in the other cast, and helps us create depth for the character and a deeper understanding of their role,” Greer said.
Atlas Hinkle, stage manager, is a junior and counts “Rumors” as their sixth production with SVHS.
“We put a lot into our productions, and there are so many silly moments in this show. It’s a very stressful setting for the play that adds to the comedy, and I think people are going to love it,” Hinkle said.
They also gave a little “crew-woo” shoutout for the 25-plus students who work diligently behind the scenes for this performance: “People should come out and support the unsung heroes who make our productions happen.”
“We had a lot of our tech heads graduate last year,” added Kannegaard, “so it’s been wonderful to see these quiet, reserved underclassmen step into roles that are outside of their comfort zones. They’ve all grown so much during this production, and they’ve become leaders in their own right.”
Chloe Kitch, who plays Claire Ganz, is also a member of the costume department. This is her seventh production with the department.
“A lot of the character dynamics are interesting, and you get to play off each other. Plus there’s tension and so much development between the characters; it allows you to explore their friendships in a meaningful way,” Kitch said. “It’s a story about overcoming obstacles and bringing you closer to the ones you love.”
Senior Kavin Pugazhenthi plays Lenny Ganz. This is his eighth show—he’s been involved in every single SVHS production since he was a freshman, and says there are a “lot of laughs and space to immerse yourself in the characters and the setting. I think everyone will really enjoy this play.”
Milo Anima plays Lenny Ganz in the opposing cast and is also a props head for the production.
“I really like this type of banter comedy. I think of it as ping-pong—lots of scenes between the couples where there’s this intensity and it creates a really fun and energetic dynamic,” Anima said.
In addition to closing out the fall season, Kannegaard said this is the final SVHS drama production that will be held at the high school.
“Starting with our winter play, we’ll be performing at the new Scotts Valley Cultural and Performing Arts Center. We’re so excited to be in that space and have our future performances in that beautiful new venue,” she said.
Looking for a little laughter? Get on over to Scotts Valley High School’s performances of “Rumors” starting on Nov. 30. Ticket information can be found at showtix4u.com/event-details/77845.