As the light hits the stage, you are transformed to a Northern boarding school dorm room from the 1940s, and then you hear it - the nagging voice of a needy girlfriend lecturing her Ivy League love.
"Now listen, Albert, take my advice," a girl named Mary Louise says as she talks to him over the telephone. "Study your sociology and relegate sex to a subordinate position. Remember, you're at Harvard."
Then, just as quickly as it begins, it's over.
"What is all of this talking?" asks Joanne Greene. "People in the wings, I can see you. Remember, if you can see the audience, they can see you, too."
And then it becomes clear again. This is no boarding school dorm room, it's the stage in the Lakeside High School auditorium. Mary Louise is sophomore Kate Moore, and Ms. Greene is the drama teacher directing the action.
It's all an act.
Each day after classes, the school's auditorium is transformed for rehearsals for the drama club's December production of the all-girl drama, The Young and Fair.
Twenty or so girls bustle about the stage, carrying huge, black notebooks full of lines they need to memorize.
Students in this production say they spend uncountable nights and weekends memorizing everything about their character - from mannerisms to expressions and reactions to other characters. But, for most of the high school drama students, it's no sacrifice, it's just a way of life.
"To me, theater is a way to experience the world and different cultures," says Abby Nazarro, a senior at Lakeside. "You get to go so many places as a character."
"You have to have the passion, I think," adds Anna Borke, a 14-year-old freshman. "If you're born with a love for theater, you're never going to lose it. If you don't have it, you'll never develop it."
She should know.
Anna also is busy practicing her role as Ophelia in Hamlet, a production Lakeside plans to stage at a one-act competition.
Like Anna, most of the students who show up for rehearsals every day are there because, to them, it's serious business.
"It takes a lot of dedication," Aubrey Nazzaro says. "You have to be willing to make sacrifices. When you come to school and you don't know your lines, your letting a lot of people down. Lots of people are depending on you."
At Washington County High School in Sandersville, Ga., where the drama department has claimed the region championship in one-act competition two years in a row, drama is a big part the curriculum.
"Productions are an extra-curricular activity," says drama teacher Scott Price. "We always put academics first. The program certainly does add a lot of culture to the school community and the town as a community, but we also have students who have developed a respect for academics because they have to."
Student thespians, much like student athletes, are not allowed to participate in productions if their grades are not up to par, he said.
But these are no drama geeks, either.
"I think we're all a testament that theater builds confidence," says Lakeside senior Mary Mattmann. "It prepares you for the future."
"You don't have to like Shakespeare to like theater," adds Megan Price, a freshman.
That's a dagger in the heart to Ms. Greene, who counts Shakespeare as one of her favorite writers.
"I'm working on changing their minds," she says, laughing. "No, seriously, theater is about the truth. It's not about putting the mask on, it's about taking it off."
WHAT: The Young and Fair, a Lakeside High School Drama Department production
WHEN: Dec. 12-14, Lakeside High School auditorium, 533 Blue Ridge Drive, Evans
Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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