Last weekend, Ramapo’s Alpha Psi Omega (AYO) Theater Honor Society produced their student-run play, “Speech and Debate.” Stephen Karam, a professional playwright, wrote the show, but all other aspects of the production were entirely student driven. The show deals with three high school oddballs who form a speech and debate team, which is a vessel to talk about the issues they face going through high school. The play deals with some sensitive issues such as homophobia, abortion and child molestation, but generally the tone can best be described as a dark comedy.
Karley Berrios, junior, made her directing debut with this show.
“Directing this show was a wonderful and challenging experience. With such a short rehearsal process, we had a lot to accomplish but the people I worked with really came together and made it an amazing experience,” Berrios said.
The show starred Michelle Santucci, Warren Dolan and Nick D’Ambrosia as the three high school kids, with Sam Simone also appearing as two different adult characters. Michelle Santucci’s character, DiWata Jones, is the self-appointed leader of the group, and she continuously works to make the other two kids get along.
“I had a lot of fun putting this character together because Diwata is super crazy…the weirder the better,” Santucci said. “It took me a while to create a balance with Diwata’s character. I tried to capture Diwata’s comedic moments while still showing that she is going through a lot of emotional trauma. I also tried to depict how she grew as a person throughout the show.”
This was a fairly ambitious show for the students to produce. Last year, AYO put on their production of “Dog Sees God,” which was very well received, so for this year, expectations were high. This time around, there was the additional challenge of musical and dance numbers, which fit into the story as part of the speech and debate team’s performances. The show was performed in the Berrie Center’s Adler Theater and the set featured three large projection screens that were used to show pictures and videos throughout the show.
D’Ambrosia’s character, Solomon, is the timid one of the group. Over the course of the show, he opens up about the difficulties he has faced with his sexual orientation and begins to accept who he is for the first time in his life. The climax of the show is a dance number set to George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90.” The show was choreographed by Simone.
“My character is this sheepish little teenager who’s struggling with his sexuality and some traumatic experiences. So while Sam gave us the backbone of the dance, we had a lot of freedom (no pun intended) to play around with it. At one point, I found myself alone, center stage, with no choreography, so I thought, ‘What would Solomon do?’ So naturally I stared terrified at the audience and did the YMCA,” D’Ambrosia said.
With two successful shows in the bag, AYO has established themselves as a talented group of students, and expectations will once again be high for their follow-up show next spring.