In her four years as a student in Chris Shary’s Lincoln High School drama program, Hana Ameperosa impressed him with her original monologues and scenes.
“She had these elaborate set ups: This takes place on the back streets of Sarajevo,” Shary said. “The stories she wrote were really something.”
Sometime last year he suggested she try to write a full play, and the 17-year-old senior has done just that.
The outcome of that effort will be on display beginning tonight when ”Impala Drowning” opens at the school’s theater. It continues with two shows Saturday and one Sunday.
“it’s been stressful in some ways,” Ameperosa said. “I fall in love with the story every time I see it staged. When I’m away from it, I worry it’s not the story I want to tell, it’s underdeveloped, juvenile. Then, I see them perform it and it revives my love for the story.”
Ameperosa has had stories and poems inside her as long as she can remember. When she wrote a monologue as a sophomore about a girl in a mental hospital classified as high-functioning sociopath, Shary and her classmates took notice.
“I wanted to do a play about someone who was a little crazy,” Ameperosa explained.
She continued in that vein on stage, playing “troubled” characters: Mercy Lewis, one of the young accusers in “The Crucible,” and Mayella Ewell, the girl whose rape accusation drives the story of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
In “Impala Drowning,” Ameperosa takes on another troubled character.
“It’s about a young writer who commits suicide,” Ameperosa said. “In the boarding house she was living in with all these girls, they’re all influenced by her and all come to a deeper understanding of what life means to them and why she would possibly take her life.”
The story is set in 1969.
“I was really inspired by my grandma’s yearbook,” Ameperosa said. “She graduated in the year 1970. When I was looking through it, it was really amazing; 1969 was just such a huge year of reformation: the birth control movement, the Civil Rights movement, Woodstock, the moon landing, a lot of prosperity. I just found that really fascinating.”
If she wanted a story set in that time frame, Ameperosa was equally determined about the cast of characters.
“I wanted to write a play with an all-female cast,” she said. “There are so many plays that surround really strong, complex male characters and the female characters are underdeveloped. I wanted to reverse that and have these really dimensional women. I thought that was exciting to do for a high school play.”
Shary appreciates that, too.
“One problem all drama teachers face is it’s difficult to find plays that are predominately female, and classes tend to be 80 percent girls and 20 percent guys,” Shary said. “I told her if she wrote her own piece she could have a predominately female story, that as a female you’d have a chance to have your say.”
Ameperosa came up with women characters, not family members, sharing a living space in a boarding house. There are seven prominent women characters. She doesn’t portray any of them. She’s directing the show.
Shary, whose third quarter assignment is student-director plays, said it’s been 13 years since one of his students’ original pieces has been performed, and the last one was a comedy.
“It’s difficult to compare comedic work with a dramatic piece,” Shary said. “We haave had other dramatic pieces, but they didn’t have quite the emotional depth that this does. It’s a more sophisticated piece. That doesn’t mean the others were simple. It just feels like a more sophisticated piece.”
For one thing, it’s not linear. The story is told in part through flashbacks.
“It does resemble a lot of college shows that are a little more metaphorical,” Ameperosa said. “I think (Shary) has been drawn to more classic literature that’s straight to the point. Mine is not straight to the point. It’s more nuanced. I’m excited. It’s time to have a contemporary show at Lincoln.”
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord