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DV drama students appreciate the classics

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Emily Whitmore is the page designer and online editor for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach her at (480) 898-7911 or ewhitmore@ahwatukee.com.

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Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 9:00 am

‘This movie could never be made today."

That's a phrase often repeated by my husband and I as we watch our way through the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Movies" list. Particularly movies with plots like "Double Indemnity" surrounding insurance scandals, or scenes like one in "Lawrence of Arabia" where Peter O'Toole plays with his shadow for a while... audiences just don't have the attention spans for that anymore.

Case in point: Recently I asked my 14-year-old sister how school was going. She told me she had to watch "Sunset Boulevard" for her media class and complained that "the teacher wouldn't even let us make fun of it."

That made me cry a little inside.

It was so sad to think that teenagers these days, including my own sister, no less, aren't interested in the more dialogue-heavy, character-driven narratives from merely a few decades ago.

So you can imagine my interest when I saw Desert Vista was putting on a production of "The Philadelphia Story." I was curious if these young actors shared my sister's sentiments about these "oldies but goodies."

The original play was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn and billionaire Howard Hughes purchased the film rights and gave them to her as a gift. The movie version also starred Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart.

In the play, a young socialite named Tracy Lord (played by senior Carmen Krebs) is preparing to marry George Kittredge (sophomore Damien Saenz).

A tabloid-esque reporter, Mike Connor (sophomore Bryan Alexander Raiton), and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (senior Yvanna Morales) are sent to cover the nuptials, but a kink is thrown in the mix when Tracy's kid sister, Dinah (sophomore Casey Grant), invites Tracy's first husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (junior Ethan Hoover), over for lunch.

Personalities clash, hilarity ensues and witty dialogue is thrown back and forth like a game of hot potato.

As the play goes on, Tracy learns that her fiancé views her as a goddess, that her ex thinks she views herself as a bronze statue, and the reporter views her as a flesh-and-blood human being.

After seeing the play and talking to the actors, I am happy to report, my theory about "kids these days" is a bust.

Krebs displays all the strength and class of Hepburn as she struggles with this newfound crisis of identity, even nailing her accent and her mannerisms down to a tea.

She said she had never seen the movie until she had been cast as the lead, and after searching for it everywhere, she finally wound up downloading it off of iTunes.

She said she loves the comedies of the 1940s era and actually idolizes Hepburn.

"I think she's a really well-rounded actor and I'd like to be like her," Krebs said.

Raiton mentioned how hard it is to portray Jimmy Stewart because of how easily he can be caricatured (Here's a little experiment: Picture Stewart right now in your head. Now say his name out loud. Did you slur "Stewart" into one syllable? I do. Every time).

But Raiton did a fantastic job of staying true to the character, emulating the actor, but not going over the top. He said he's also a huge fan of Stewart's dramatic performances.

Hoover is just as suave in person as Grant's C.K. Dexter Haven is on screen.

He's also a fan of the classics, stating that his favorite actor of yesteryear is Laurence Olivier, because "he can make anyone cry in an instant."

So if these drama students are any indication, I'm optimistic that these classics will endure.

They may have to download the movies off of iTunes, but at least they're being watched and appreciated.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7911 or ewhitmore@ahwatukee.com

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