Longtime teacher David Mittel readily admits the irony in the title of Desert Vista High School’s first production of the school year by the Thunder Theatre Company.
His very presence as director contradicts “You Can’t Take It With You.”
A director for the Kyrene and Akimel A-al middle schools for 28 years and a guest director at Desert Vista from 1999 through 2004, Mittel retired last spring.
But the onetime eighth-grade language arts educator couldn’t stay away from the world he’s known since he was a kid. He began acting in the Boston, Massachusetts, at the Children’s Theater and later in high school and college.
This production is especially meaningful since some of his Akimel students are now attending Desert Vista, making for a reunion of sorts.
“After a four-year absence, it is so great to be back directing a show with Desert Vista students,” Mittel said. “Theater has been an integral part of my life, and when I retired last spring after 28 years of teaching, I knew I needed to keep my passion for theater alive in some way.”
He’s grateful to Desert Vista theater teacher Jesse Ploog-Bacik and the Thunder Theater Company “for welcoming me back and allowing me to nurture and pursue my love of theater and teaching.”
The production will be presented at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 through Sept. 27 at Desert Vista’s Black Box Theatre, 16440 S. 32nd St., Ahwatukee. Tickets are $7 at the school bookstore and $8 at the door.
Mittel, who taught at Kyrene Middle School for 21 years and the last seven at Akimel, chose the play “because it has a good cast size (15 roles) with wonderful, colorful characters as well as a beautiful message.”
“ ’You Can’t Take it With You’ has a special place in my heart,” he said. “It actually was my first production that I ever directed and staging it again is like visiting a dear, old friend.”
Although written in the 1930s, the play “still has an enduring appeal to audiences today,” Mittel said.
“Perhaps the allure to this play is that it takes what looks like family dysfunction and turns it into a warm and loving form,” he said. “The play is truly a love letter to all the eccentrics and starry-eyed oddballs out there -- a tribute to those of us who live in the now and follow our bliss.”
Besides funny, the play also carries a touching, “seemingly simple and yet poignant message,” Mittel added.
“Hopefully, you too will walk away tonight with a broad grin on your face and a newfound appreciation for enjoying life by doing what makes you happy - and all of that... you can take with you!”
This production carried a challenge in that the cast and crew had only four weeks to get their act together, so to speak.
With only one interior set inside an old Victorian home outside New York City, Mittel said, “it’s been fun dressing the set and making it look lived in and trying to capture the essence of the eccentric family who resides there.”
The cast includes Stephanie Osswald, Natalie Sanchez, Izzy Watts, Sebastian Williams, Aident Duncan, Bradley Ash, Dominick Miszewski, Eli Rivera, Jessica Lester, Michael McLoud, Tyler Dean, Alex Magewick, Jax Martin, Andrew Dull and Zoey Monnissen.
The crew includes Stage Manager Tanner Berschel and Assistant Stage Manager Kaylin McDonald as well as Maggie Brake, Mariah Vergara, Jen Ham, Abbey Hart, Keitan Handley, Natalie Hale and Lauren Mooney, Jacey Metts, Shawn Evans II, and Mantra Rostami
Student designers and student support staff include Shawn Evans II, Delani Piasecki, Meghan Stoff, Ava Schwartz, Jen Ham, Kelson Badger, Gyesenia McKenzie and Andrew Dull.