Clovis East presents “Stanton’s Garage”

Mary (Mirra Priest) talks on the phone.

Featured photo by Valerie Shelton – Mary (Mirra Priest) talks on the phone.

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

We’ve all been there—standing in line and waiting for hours at the DMV, sitting in your car stuck in heavy traffic, waiting in the grocery line with two items as the person with a cart full in front of you whips out a stack of coupons.

Such a frustrating situation serves as the backdrop for “Stanton’s Garage.” While on the way to his ex-wife’s wedding—already an awkward situation—Ron’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and he brings it to Stanton’s Garage, where owner Silvio says “it will be a couple hours” as the answer to every question although the customers often end up waiting much longer. None waits as long nor gets so frustrated as fellow wedding-goer, Lee, the fiancé to the best man, whose car, a Volvo, also breaks down and is taken to Stanton’s Garage—where the repairmen have never seen, let alone worked on, a Volvo before.

As tensions rise between those waiting on their cars and the kooky characters that work at and around Stanton’s Garage, hilarity ensues and eventually, the true seriousness of the show comes out as each character reflects on why they are the way they are.

“There is nothing funny about what is going on with these characters, but it is funny to use because we’re on the outside looking in,” Clovis East drama director Joel Presley said of the play his students will be performing this month at the Dan Pessano Theater. “It’s one of those human experience like waiting at the DMV or at the doctor’s office, where you are just waiting and the longer it takes, the more impatient you become…I consider it a comedy because it ends well, but there is some seriousness to the show in terms of the metaphor being diagnosing a car, but while these people are waiting they are also diagnosing their own lives and trying to solve the problems within their lives.”

“Stanton’s Garage” is the first play directed by Presley for Clovis East. Presley took over the position of drama director and instructor mid-year after the former director retired. Prior to that, Presley worked as an English teacher on campus. With a background in theater—he majored in theater in college, worked as a professional actor and volunteered in the drama department at his alma mater, Madera South High School—Presley is excited to take over the position and teach Clovis East students acting techniques.

Presley said he chose “Stanton’s Garage” as his Clovis East directorial debut because he felt it was a good fit for the student talent he has this semester and also a good fit for the community.

“I chose this play for several reasons,” Presley said. “One, I have a lot of female talent and I wanted to choose a play with strong female roles and two, I think Clovis in general can really relate to several aspects of this. One is the whole human experience of being stuck in a garage shop, but there is also that element that the foundation of Clovis is small business and we have so many mechanic shops in Clovis and I think this will be something that not just theater goers can appreciate. We’re trying to pull all aspects of the community together.”

“Stanton’s Garage” features a relatively small cast, with eight primary characters—four males and four females—and six ensemble characters. Scott Dommer plays Ron, the man whose car breaks down while he’s on the way to his ex-wife’s wedding, and Evangelia Pappas plays Lee, the fiancé to the best man whose car also breaks down on the way to the same wedding. Both end up at Stanton’s Garage, where owner Silvio, played by Elijah Stein, is also having a tough day fighting with his wife Audrey, played by Tyler Pence (and understudy Emelia Cameron). Also working at the shop is the eccentric accountant Mary, played by Mirra Preist (and understudy Alyson Stokes) and awkward teenager Harlon, played by Diego Cazarez, who develops a crush on Lee’s soon-to-be stepdaughter Fannie, played by Heidi Leiva. Also at the garage Denny, played by Cordell Moon, a star baseball player in town who is preparing for that night’s big game who is worried about his health and ability to live up to others grand expectations.

Senior Evangelia Pappas (Lee) has performed in several other Clovis East productions and said she is excited about this show.

“It wasn’t something we expected to do this year but it was something that Mr. Presley had chosen and he wanted to do and he came in halfway through the year, but it was such a great choice for this group,” Pappas said. “I’ve really enjoyed it. I like just watching the progression of the whole show from start to finish.”

Pappas said she enjoys portraying the frustrated Lee.

“I don’t have a favorite part of the show; I just like my character,” Pappas said. “I like how she develops over time. She starts off very professional and as time goes on she becomes really frantic and then completely explodes and you see the digression of how she comes to ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ You find out in the show that she is very afraid. She doesn’t want to do anything risky but she used to and then at the end, she says ‘oh my gosh, I understand it now, I get why I’m like this’ and you see a total flip and it is at the very split end.”

“Stanton’s Garage” is the perfect show, Pappas said, for this group of actors and actresses.

“Pretty much everyone here except for a few of us, including me, are new to drama and I think this is a good show to see where everyone’s level is at and it allows us to improve as actors and actresses,” Pappas said.

Senior Elijah Stein (Silvio) has been in drama for two years and this is his first role on stage.

“There is a lot of memorization but working with Mr. Presley is a really nice experience because he helps you through struggles and obstacles you might have,” Stein said of acting in a lead role his first time on stage. “What might come up is, I don’t know how to act to a certain part and he clarifies what to do and I wouldn’t have got it without his help. I’m nervous but I know I can get through it. I have confidence in myself.”

“Stanton’s Garage” is also the first Clovis East production for freshman actor Diego Cazarez (Harlon). Cazarez has performed in other non-school plays and worked on the set design for Clovis East’s “Annie.” He said he is excited to play Harlon, although a little nervous about a scene where Harlon and Fannie kiss.

“Harlon is just like any teenage boy and in this case, he is the apprentice to the engineer and Harlon himself hasn’t done too much with his life except work in the shop so finally he is given some social interaction with the teenage girl who visits the shop and he tries to go for it,” Cazarez said. “My favorite scene has to be the one where Fannie, who my character is having difficulties with, and Harlon actually kiss. Leading up to it is actually very comedic.”

Cazarez said the best thing about the show is the interacting the audience will get to see between so many different personalities.

“There are quite a variety of personalities that really mix together quite well which, I believe, you wouldn’t normally see together in a real situation,” Cazarez said. “Seeing them here is actually quite entertaining, so just watch out for the different personalities.”

“Stanton’s Garage” will be performed May 12, 13, 14, 19 and 20 at the Dan Pessano Theater on the Clovis North High School campus. Curtain for evening performances is 7:30 p.m. and doors open at 7 p.m. There will be a matinee performance on May 14 with a curtain at 2 p.m. and doors open at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students.

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