Heritage High School theatre begins 11-episode Superman and Batman adventure
By Dan Trujillo
Up in the sky! Look!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
It’s the Heritage High School theatre department’s production The Adventures of Superman — Batman’s Great Mystery. The audio play is directed by theatre teacher Charlie Jackam and features current Timberwolves and graduates. This radio show from 1948 features The Man of Steel teaming with The Dark Knight and Robin to stop the sinister Mr. Jones.
The cast is creating an 11-episode arc filled with witty dialogue, soaring action, sound effects for those kicks and punches, and cliffhangers to bring listeners back next week. The first episode should be available on the Heritage and Evergreen School District’s YouTube pages within the next week or two, followed by another episode each week through May.
Jackam feels this nostalgic rollercoaster ride is just what Evergreen schools, teachers and students need after the coronavirus pandemic turned everything upside down.
“There are a number of writers putting out plays to be performed in these scenarios. I was thinking about visiting the idea of a radio play,” Jackam said. “I thought it would be a good growing piece for the kids because, sometimes, we rely too much on what the audience can see and don’t put enough into our voice.”
After Heritage went traditional for the holidays and performed an online version of A Christmas Carol, Jackam wanted to do something different this spring. Something with a little hope in it. He found his objective at an online theatre conference when the actors read a script from the 1940s Adventures of Superman radio play.
“It was episode one, where Superman comes to Earth, which I thought was charming,” Jackam said.
Then, he did a rights search to see if any scripts were available for high school theatre. Turns out, all the Superman radio shows from the 1940s have fallen into the public domain. Just what Jackam and the Timberwolves were looking to sink their teeth into.
“When we’re in person, we’re focusing on facial expressions, blocking, costumes, all of that,” said Jasmyne Keller, a senior at Heritage. She voices Robin and Dick Grayson.
“For a radio play, it’s all your voice. If the voice acting is not good, the visuals aren’t going to come to life,” Keller said. “Messing around with your voice to fit the character is fun. It’s like, ‘Huh, I didn’t know I could do that.’ It’s a different aspect of acting. I think it broadens your horizons and talents.”
This is Keller’s sixth drama production at Heritage. She was heartbroken when the school’s 2020 production of Cyrano was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Going almost a year without any theatre felt so wrong because I’ve been doing this for so long,” Keller said. “I hope listeners enjoy the show and get a good laugh. It was hard enough for all of us not to have theatre. And now we have something for our parents, friends and family to enjoy.”
On top of changing the lives of students, teachers and staff members throughout the school districts in Clark County, the lockdown affected participation in activities such as theatre.
“Several of our long standing performers didn’t come back and audition for us and that’s sad. If we were doing something at a live venue, they would be here. But it’s not safe so we can’t,” Jackam said. “As with anything that I do, I hope somebody gives it a try and maybe likes it and enjoys it. At the end of the day, if we’ve accomplished that, we’ve done our job.”
Thanks to the power of Google Meet, two Heritage graduates are able to save the day without leaving their homes. It’s only fitting they are playing Superman and Batman.
Daniel Carpenter had an opportunity to play a leading role in Cyrano before COVID changed everything. He left Heritage without that feather in his cap or a graduation ceremony. Now, he gets to play the Man of Steel for his high school while completing his first year at Clark College.
“I didn’t want to have the mentality that my last year (of high school) got stolen from me because life is just life. Stuff happens,” Carpenter said. “Thank goodness this pandemic happened when technology is this advanced. Being able to put together a show like this is incredible.”
Michael Wallis, a 2019 Heritage grad, plays the dueling roles of Batman and an imposter Caped Crusader. He is a sophomore at Evergreen State College in Olympia, a school that no longer has a theatre department.
“I’ve been cooped up here in my apartment,” Wallis said, adding that all of his college courses are online. He misses going to the campus library or cafeteria to study and socialize. “Having this space where I can hang out with friends and do what I love is really important.”
Adelaine Ebrahimy, a senior at Heritage, plays the narrator. She enjoys using her voice as an instrument to keep listeners on the edge of their seats.
“You’re on a cliffhanger. You get to build that excitement,” she said. “It’s fun being the person who tells the audience, ‘Tune in next time.’ Ha! You don’t get to find out what happens. You have to wait until next week.”
Using computers, camera and lighting techniques makes Ebrahimy realize how much she enjoys film. She hopes Heritage students and community members take advantage of the opportunity to listen to this radio play from wherever they feel comfortable.
“It’s something they can listen to on their couch in their sweatpants,” Ebrahimy said. “You don’t have to go anywhere and you don’t have to pay for it. It’s free.”
Growing up watching cartoons and anime, Ezekiel Patterson, a junior at Heritage, is fascinated by voice acting. Patterson has the opportunity to explore this unique artform by voicing four different characters in this production for Heritage.
“I know about intonation and how you want to build up your voice for dramatic scenes. Thinking about which voice you want for different characters. Whether you want your voice to be low and round or high-pitched and pinch together,” Patterson said. “While I am very interested in all that stuff, I haven’t had a lot of practice on specific techniques. Being able to play multiple characters has been a really good exercise for my interest in voice acting because I’ve been able to test out my skills by being more than one person.”
Carpenter and Wallis are still perfecting their voices as Superman and Batman. It’s too bad they don’t get to dress the part.
“I would like to have a Batman costume,” Wallis admits.
“My Batman voice is basically my own voice, just amplified a little bit,” he added. “I try to leave out the more modern iterations of Batman as much as I can. If I do an impression of Batman, I feel like that’s not genuine. I want to feel authentic when I’m playing Batman. I don’t want to feel like I’m trying to copy someone else’s Batman.”
Jackam tells students it’s about the choices they make as an actor and a character. Those choices lead to either extremely engaging performances or forgettable ones. That’s what keeps theatre alive, even during the most trying times.
“Everybody brings their own personality and their own choices to whatever roles they take on, and that lends it flavor,” Jackam said. “We don’t want to just copy people. We want to be the best versions of ourselves. If you want to be the next Tom Hanks, you’re going to be a second rate Tom Hanks because Tom Hanks is going to be the best Tom Hanks there is. But you are going to be the best you. Tom Hanks doesn’t stand a candle next to you.”