Sussex Central drama students are staging "Amadeus," a play that hasn't been seen in Sussex County for years, possibly even decades. And, believe it or not, the challenging tragicomedy was actually suggested by a student, much to the delight of drama instructor David Warick.
Warick, a Los Angeles, CA native who has lived and worked in Sussex County for years, was born to be a theater teacher and teaching high school students is what he always wanted to do.
"I taught classes privately and with the library system here for many, many years that finally led to a job teaching drama to first grade through eighth grade at the Southern Delaware School for the Arts," Warick said. "Then, I got an opportunity at the high school, which is the age I really wanted to teach."
Warick is in the middle of his second year at Sussex Central and what pleases him most, besides his students, is getting to experiment with unlikely show ideas that grow him as a director and teacher while simultaneously developing the strengths of his students as well.
Warick took time this week, in between rehearsals and classes, to talk about this week's show, his love of his work and what's next for the Sussex Central stage.
IF YOU GO...
WHERE Sussex Central High School, 26026 Patriot's Way, Georgetown
WHEN 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday
COST $5 to $8**
** Middle school students will ID will be admitted on a two-for-one $5 ticket. No one will be turned away for inability to pay.
Q For people unfamiliar with the story, can you explain what "Amadeus" is about?
A Of course. It's the fictional story of whether or not Mozart was killed by his rival, an older musician who felt that Mozart was so much more talented than him that it was necessary for him to remove Mozart from the world.
Q Is there any truth to that part of the story?
A No. If anything, it was just the little gossip of the day. Salieri, the older composer, did have sort of a tragic ending and he did try to commit suicide. People speculated that he felt guilt about something and from this, the playwright Peter Shaffer made up everything else. He took the whisperings of the day and completely went to town and made the fictionalized story of Salieri basically ruining Mozart's career until he was starving to death, super sick and unable to function. So, it's very sad. But, that being said, most of the play is pretty funny. It's a dark comedy. It's sort-of like Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Whatever Salieri tries to do to Mozart, somehow Mozart's brilliance always saves him and makes Salieri more jealous.
Q The play seems ambitious for high school. How do the kids feel about it?
A Yes, it is an ambitious play. My seniors were very excited about it. My younger kids are somewhat mystified about why we chose it but they're going with it. They threw themselves into it and they've been the most enthusiastic. Mozart's wife is played by 10th grader Caitlyn Pawelek and she's quite amazing. I mean, she's as good as the girl in the movie or the woman I saw on the stage. The kid who originally suggested the play is also in it. His name is Logan Lynch and he's playing Mozart and he's really great. And then, Cole Haden, another 10th grader, is playing Salieri, the hardest part. It's incredibly hard with long monologues but he's done an incredible job.
Q What about the music? Do the kids like the music?
A I actually just added the soundtrack for the last three rehearsals and it is making a huge difference. They've been talking about the music but I'm going to guarantee you that probably only two or three of them went and listened to the songs being described. But now, with me playing it, I think they're getting a huge jolt from this. Because, now it's all making sense. The playwright picked the music so carefully and it works perfectly. It will give you goosebumps. And, I can see them on stage when they're supposed to be watching a Mozart opera or concert really listening to the music and being like, 'Wow. That is beautiful." So, they're not thinking anymore that it doesn't fit into their lives because they've been doing the play and they get it.
Q You seem to like the more contemporary and original stuff. What's next?
A I'm picking things that haven't been done. My little criteria is to ask if it has been done in Sussex County in the last 10 years. And, if it hasn't, then I'm interested in it. And, if it has, then I'm not. And, the kids are mad at me sometimes because they want to do "High School Musical" or "Legally Blonde" or all the regular musicals but I don't want to do that for a little while. Just before I was here, they did "Okalahoma" and while I love classical musical, I want to do different stuff. The next musical we're doing is "Tommy," which has never been done down here before. It's just been released for high schools. A couple of schools in New Jersey actually did it and it was a fantastic success.
Q But, that also sounds really ambitious.
A It's always going to be. I never want to do something that is just super easy or super familiar. And, it may be selfish of me but I will get bored. And, if I'm bored, I'm not good. You can't do the same old stuff. But, the kids are usually up for the challenge, although sometimes I'm having to drag them along.
Q I want to go back to "Amadeus." What's your favorite part?
A Oh my gosh, the relationship between Mozart and his wife because it's extremely weird and childlike and goofy. She's an amazing character. She's childlike with him but she's not a dummy. She's very adultlike with Salieri. She's trying to help her husband survive. She plays roles herself and has these dual qualities that go from childish to worldly. The other thing I love is the music. It made me so happy to get music in the show. It's so well done. And, I love the sly, dark humor.
Q So, what do you think the audience's favorite part is going to be?
A I think the humor and Mozart. I think Mozart is going to be a really way of looking at a hero. They're going to see a very interesting portrayal of a musical icon that they've not seen before. And, the side benefit is that they're getting to see a play that's never been done in the area or that they've maybe never seen before. But, it's a modern classic and they should.
Q I heard that you also want people to see it because you think it's not just a great bit of high school theater, it's just great theater. Is that right?
A Yes, that's true. This is very, very mature acting. Our leads are pulling off something, and even if they're not perfect, they're at an adult level of acting right now. Through the demands of the material, they've just grown so much and shot way higher than they were at the beginning of rehearsals. It's changed their acting. People should know, this is not just a high school play. Yes, they're high school students but it's not high school acting.