An ‘Evening to Die for’

San Jacinto High School put together this deathly two-act play, which ran last weekend, in just under two months

Photos by Corey Evan/The Valley Chronicle
How did you, a waiter in a death row prison, beat the next in line to the great beyond?

■ By Corey Evan / Reporter

When we say something is good enough to die for, we don’t usually mean that literally. But the cast of characters in San Jacinto High School’s “Evening to die for” literally died for this juicy story. At least, that’s what was written in the script.
The SJHS Performing Arts Center hosted “An Evening to die for” last Thursday through Saturday. The play was made up of two parts: Act I was based off of “The Morgue the Merrier,” by Pat Cook, in which Jane, a ghostly narrator (played by Jesslynn Burbridge) coaxes the latest arrivals from behind the veil to talk about how they died.
Whether it was death by heavy metal, having a heart attack in front of the next in line on death row, or poisoning oneself as an alternative to writing a resignation letter, audiences were in for quite an interesting take on what it’s like to pass away.
Act II, based on “Cheating Death” by Kamron Klitgaard, saw Death come (dressed very sharply and played by 11th-grade Dallas Humphreys) to claim the next soul due home. The thing was… he had to find them in an insane asylum. Needless to say, the patients had a blast messing around with Death, while Death got a headache that no aspirin could relieve.
Just as death can often feel rushed, so was this play, although the audience was none the wiser. Theatre teacher Julie Dawson says this play was put together in just under two months’ time.
“We wanted to do something fun and simple, and we didn’t have a lot of time,” said Dawson. “And so we decided two one-act plays would be the way to go. I…read through plays all the time, and these two kind of caught my eye and I thought they were a little bit interesting and amusing. And so it was something I wanted to give a shot.”

Will the real Sam Johnson PLEASE step forward? Death is losing his patience.

As Dawson took her aim, student director Amyela Ardalo, a 12th-grader, helped her hit the mark.
“This is the first, and probably the only, play that I will direct,” said Ardalo. “And basically, I helped the actors get into character and helped with blocking (telling actors where to go)… I think my most favorite part was seeing everything come together, first getting the script and going through it and then seeing something that comes from a page come to life in this theater.”
Ardalo plans to study pre-nursing at La Sierra University in Riverside and transfer to Loma Linda University to finish her nursing studies.
Burbridge, another 11th-grader, says while she’s been in other plays, this was her first main role.
“I had to go over my lines a lot, and I really had to get comfortable with a lot of the other cast members because I had to interact with a lot of them,” said Burbridge. “But overall, it was very fun.” Burbridge hopes to return to SJHS theatrical productions next school year.
Humphreys, a regular in SJHS plays, admits this play took him out of his comfort zone.
“I am more of an optimist, I don’t really think about death that much. So trying to portray Death itself was comical,” said Humphreys. “It was a bit hard to figure out, ‘Do I do it more serious, or more funny?’ And the genre of the play is actually comical, so I said, ‘Might as well just do random things!’” Humphreys is currently torn as to whether to pursue law enforcement or business for his future.
Death can be gruesome sometimes. But after seeing this play, hopefully audiences feel a little more at ease about their eventual demise.

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