First and foremost, DON’T TELL THE SECRET! The South Pasadena High School Drama Club’s fall play, Steven Gregg’s TRAP, promises to be a twisty ride with reveals and apparently a big secret. So when you do see it, don’t tell! Well, other than to tell everyone to go see it!
Director Nick Hoffa had read the play five years ago and while it seemed really fun, he was keen to dive into the emotional complexities of plays like “The Laramie Project” and “Middletown”. But this year felt different and Hoffa says, “sometimes it’s a really valid form of art to just try to entertain the heck out of people! And so it just seemed like a really fun, great year to do a big ensemble show like this. It’s really fun for us and we’re trying to make it as frightening as possible.”
Hoffa says it’s basically a mystery of what happened to a theater full of people and why they fell unconscious. It’s written in a documentary theater style recreating interviews and goes back and forth between recreating scenes and directly addressing the audience as they piece it all together. “It’s a one-act and it really flies,” says Hoffa. “It’s funny, we don’t talk about it much and the parents really have no idea what it’s about – and it’s on purpose because there’s a lot of fun that we don’t want to reveal. It’s been called a psychological horror thriller.” I ask if it’s gasp-inducing and he says, “gasps would be great. I think shrieks are not out of the question.”
The Little Theatre, where the fall play is staged, has received some recent upgrades that audiences will be treated to for this production including new LED lights. “What that means is that Mr. Jontz, who always makes the stage look beautiful, now has multiple degrees of colors to use with our 12 new LED lights, so I’m really excited and I know it’s going to elevate the show – and this is a great show for that because the lighting or lack of lighting is very important.” For this reason they are not having matinees this year – all shows will be at 7pm to maximize the nighttime scary factor. Hoffa says it’s been his favorite show to rehearse. “I’m excited to take everyone on a ride. It’s a unique show -we’ve never done anything like this before.”
Senior Milla Sanchez-Regalado (Drama Club President) says that after coming into drama on Zoom her freshman year and then joining drama her sophomore year, “drama has become a community. I’ve met people that I know I’m going to know for the rest of my life. There’s such a passion for the work. It transcends the normal high school extracurricular – we really are family. We all love and care about the program, each other and Mr. Hoffa.”
Seniors Lucia Benning (Drama Club Program Director) and Drama Club Secretary, Solon McDonald, have been doing musical theatre together since they were kids and feel they have come full circle doing this play together in their senior year. After doing drama on Zoom, Solon took a break from it only to come back to do behind the scenes work and says, “I’ve regained the love of theatre itself – while my interest in performing has definitely lessened, I still get to be a part of this community but in a different way that I feel more strongly about. It’s been a very fun, new, refreshing experience.” Echoes Lucia, “It’s been so wonderful.”
“The Fall play is always special – just a very different vibe from the spring musical – we’re all a little bit closer and can really work on our characters. In this play all of us are in almost every scene so we’re always working super closely together,” says Milla.
“TRAP is extremely fun to be a part of, not just because of the writing, but because I love this program so much,” says senior Sophia Swallow (Drama Club VP). “I don’t want it to be mistaken as lighthearted fun because these characters are going through some things, but it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
“Coming from a production standpoint, it’s also a very interesting show,” Solon tells us, “because it’s a very varied show. We have costumes from the 1940’s and then costumes for mythical creatures. There’s a lot going on but in a very fun way that I hope translates. It’s definitely the most obscure show we’ve ever done and because of that kind of depth, it’s very entertaining. And it’s crazy. But there’s also a deeper understanding of the characters when you watch it and so I think it’s something that a lot of people can enjoy.”
“I love the audience interaction,” Milla continues, “I feel like the audience is really going to enjoy this. I mean, they’re gonna laugh, they’re gonna scream, and there might be a little bit of sadness in there. I don’t know, there’s a lot of different things that are in this play that I think everyone will enjoy.”
“Being backstage and being able to see it I can tell you assuredly that the audience will love it and be invested,” says Solon.
“I’m excited to show the range of characters in this play. A lot of them are going through completely different things and so I think it’s really interesting to see from the audience perspective,” says Sophia.
“I simply want to share with the audience some good screams and laughter,” says Lucia. “I think there will be a lot of moments where the audience is going to be like ‘whoa, what just happened?’ and I’m really excited to see people’s reactions!”
It’s clearly evident that these drama students are having the time of their lives and treasure the vibrant program that they and Nick Hoffa have created. “I really love my fellow officers,” says Milla. “We’ve been in the program for a while and I’ve watched us grow together as actors and people. I met Mr. Hoffa over Zoom and when I got to know him in person sophomore year I saw how much he really cares about me and my peers. Mr. Hoffa connects with us on a personal level. You can tell he cares about every one of us individually and it’s a really nice feeling to be supported like that.”
“He has made me grow as a human in general and also as an actor specifically this year” echoes Sophia, “he definitely prioritizes our growth. He treats you as if you’re his own child – it’s really sweet. And the way he works with us on our characters is something deeply personal.”
“And it goes both ways,” says Milla. “When he’s stressed, we’ll bring him coffee and when we’re going through something he’ll talk to us whenever we need – it’s a very unique relationship that helps us as actors. His notes are more personal – we have a deeper understanding of what he means.”
“Hoffa is extremely supportive. He will always hear you out, you can go to him,” says Sophia. “The Little Theater is like our little safe space. He always does his best to have snacks, especially during tech he’ll ask the parents get us food. He wants us to be as stress free as possible. If that’s even possible during tech,” she laughs. “But every step of the way, he’s there for you.”
This will be the last fall play for each of these seniors, a thought that is not lost on them. “It’s definitely been on my mind since literally the last day of school last year,” says Milla. “It’s always emotional letting the seniors go and so it will be interesting for us to let go of the Little Theatre and Mr. Hoffa and this family we’ve created.”
“Even if any of us pursue acting in college, I feel like the relationship that you build here over three or four years is not something you’re going to get in college,” says Sophia. “There will definitely be visiting involved, obviously to come back and see Mr. Hoffa. I feel like it’s something you never leave behind.”
What I hear is that TRAP is a play that is unnerving, exhilarating, and wildly inventive. You’ve never walked into anything quite like TRAP.
The actors’ final message? “See the show. There’s a secret. Don’t reveal it and just tell people to go!”
TRAP is directed by Nick Hoffa with technical direction by James Jontz and runs November 3, 4, 10, 11 & 12. All show are at 7pm. Tickets and information at SouthPasDrama.com
Performances held at the Little Theatre at South Pasadena High School 1401 Fremont Ave. South Pasadena, CA. General admission is $15.