Sally Brown has naturally curly hair.
So does Marina Macherone.
Both characters are happy to show off their tresses — Sally in the “Peanuts” comic strip and Marina on stage at Mohonasen High School.
Rotterdam resident Macherone will play Sally this coming weekend in Mohon Masque’s production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Hundreds of other Capital Region teenagers will be on stage or in the wings this fall, as curtains rise on high school dramas, comedies and musicals.
Today, The Gazette profiles six actors and actresses from six local high school shows. In addition to Macherone’s take on Charlie Brown’s little sister, first-nighters can read about:
• Nick DeMasi of Shenendehowa High School, playing excitable stage director Lloyd Dallas in “Noises Off.”
• Noah Jerard of Scotia-Glenville High School, starring as Oberon, king of the fairies, in “Midsummer Jersey.”
• Genausha Moses of Schenectady High School, portraying aspiring actress Vera Stark in “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.”
• Carolyn Shields of Saratoga Springs High School, playing romance-minded Gayle Howard in “Almost, Maine.”
• Micaiah Siemski of Amsterdam High School, presenting jester Trinculo in “The Tempest.”
Macherone, 17, has been acting since her days at Pinewood Elementary School. She already has professional experience — as a 10-year-old, she was on the national tour of “Annie,” and played orphan Duffy for a 98-city run. Macherone was tutored and home-schooled while on the road.
The actress becomes a singing, sassy Sally. “She’s very different than Charlie, he’s got all these problems,” Macherone said. “She’s not smart in school, but she’s clever ... she’s always got a lot of energy.”
Macherone likes Mohon Masque’s fine reputation and likes working with cast and crew members who will display talents Friday and Saturday nights. “We’re such a close-knit family,” she said. “I feel so grateful to have Ms. [Kathy] Derochie and Miss [Nicole] Gabriel because they work really hard to make these good productions.”
Derochie, who teaches English and theater at Mohonasen and has been the Masque director for the past six years, believes acting builds confidence and self esteem and encourages a love for the arts. “They work so hard,” Derochie said. “They put all this time and energy into it, and they’re just great kids. It’s just a lot of fun working with them ... They’re so talented.”
Bill Ziskin, a theater instructor at Schenectady High School who will direct “Vera Stark,” says scripts and stages provide a great outlet for young people.
“I think it can be incredibly important for a kid to have something they feel passionate about, that motivates them to want to come to school,” Ziskin said. “In the process, they’re learning history, they learning skills related to the English Language Arts standards. And in a big school like this one, it can be a second home or a strategy for shrinking down the school into a more manageable size.”
Debbie May, a guidance counselor and director of the theater program at Scotia-Glenville High School, notes some other advantages: “I think it gives them a chance to bond with people of similar likes,” she said. “I don’t cut anyone on my shows, so anybody can do this.”
Bob Berenis, who founded the drama program at Saratoga Springs High School in 1996 and directs musical productions, said theater offers opportunities for students who are not necessarily sports minded.
“It gives them something where they have a group they can get involved with where they’re comfortable, where they’re creative, whether they’re working on stage or off stage” Berenis said. “Kids work in every single aspect. We’ll have kids running lights, running sound, in the pit orchestra, not just the actors on stage. They’re building the sets, painting the sets, helping with costumes. They’re doing everything.”
Macherone does a little bit of everything. She’ll act and sing as Sally; she has studied dance at the Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady since she was five. Plans to study musical theater in college are in the works.
“I just want to perform, I just want to be on stage,” Macherone said. “You can just forget about what’s going on and you can just be that person for two hours. It’s a nice escape.”
Genausha Moses, Schenectady High School
Meet Vera Stark?
First, meet Genausha Moses.
Moses, a 17-year-old junior at Schenectady High School, will play the title role in the school’s Blue Roses Theatre Company production of “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.”
Moses has been preparing for the challenge since last spring, and is also preparing to play different ages in a role that jumps forward in time.
“Vera Stark is an actress during the 1930s who is kind of trying to find her big break,” Moses said. The character is very determined, the actress added, and must deal with racial discrimination of the period.
Moses will show a comforting, flirtatious and raw woman who is passionate about her art. She lands a role as “Tilly,” a slave in a movie set in the South; the story later moves into the 1970s, and will show the audience a middle-aged Vera.
Moses, who has participated on Schenectady’s “Masterminds” and debate teams, loves the confidence acting gives her. She played Ruth in “A Raisin in the Sun” this past spring. She worked backstage on costumes for Blue Roses’ “Hairspray.”
“It’s a way to express yourself and it’s a way to show what you can do, it’s kind of like a creative outlet I can go to,” Moses said of her stage work. “It’s just great to get all the different support from people who watch what I do and like what I do, and that of course makes me feel good.”
As for Vera, she loves the character’s ferocity for acting. “It’s very fun to play her because she has all these different ways of going about things,” Moses said.
Nerves are generally not a factor when the curtain rises.
“It helps when you’re having fun on stage and not worrying about every little detail,” Moses said.
Moses has received family support to help bring Vera to life. She has received acting tips from her older sister Kai Moses, a Blue Roses actress who graduated from Schenectady High in 2011. And for the role’s transition — Moses will also play Vera during the 1960s — the actress is hanging out with another relative.
“I’m basing the 60-year-old character on my grandmother,” Moses said. “She’s somebody I’m close to who’s 60.”
Nick DeMasi, Shenendehowa
Nick DeMasi owns an energetic attitude and a great smile.
His autumn alter ego, Lloyd Dallas, has a nervous kind of energy. But not much of a smile.
Lloyd is the dour and occasionally sour theatrical director that DeMasi will play in Shenendehowa High School’s upcoming “Noises Off.”
“He’s at wit’s end for the most part, dealing with the actors,” DeMasi said of Lloyd, who spends some time sitting in the back of the theater and other scenes on stage as he worries about the play-within-the-play, “Nothing On.”
“He’s got a lot of stress and a couple of love interests,” DeMasi said. “He’s on edge for most of it. I would say he doesn’t slow down.”
The laughs in Michael Frayn’s 1982 play come from the contrast between characters’ on-stage and off-stage personalities. Nine Shenendehowa actors will be in costume for shows on Nov. 13-15; about 50 students are in the drama club.
DeMasi, 18, a senior who lives in Clifton Park, has been a staple on the school stage. He’s been in “Grease,” “Lost in Yonkers,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the last as the nutty Teddy Brewster. He loves developing his characters, giving them personal spins for speech and mannerisms.
It hasn’t been too hard figuring out the temperamental, sarcastic Lloyd, who’s been living inside DeMasi’s head since rehearsals began in early September. “It’s not a mind-set I have to try too much to get into,” he said.
DeMasi admits to some jitters before showtime. “But never any doubt,” he said.
The confident actor is considering colleges now, and hopes the performing arts are part of his collegiate future. “I definitely want to keep it a part of me,” he said. “I don’t want to lose the ability to act.”
Carolyn Shields, Saratoga Springs High School
Carolyn Shields’ friend Gayle is in a spin.
She’s loving the spin she’s in — chasing that old black magic called love.
Carolyn, a 17-year-old senior at Saratoga Springs High School, will play Gayle Howard in the school drama club’s upcoming “Almost, Maine.”
It’s a cold night in Maine, and some residents are falling in and out of their relationships A series of vignettes will show the audience love — American style — with a New England accent.
“It’s really cute,” Shields said. “I think a lot of kids here will like it.”
Shields knows her character. Gayle has been with her man Lendall for the past 11 years, and Lendall has contracted the male version of wedding bell blues — he’s in no rush to make everything legal. There is conversation and confrontation.
Like other high-school thespians, Shields has been interested in drama since her elementary school years. At Saratoga, her credentials include “Legally Blonde,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (as Sally) and “Footloose” (as Rusty).
She also starred as the title character in Curtain Call Theatre’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 2011 and continued the role in a “Diary” presentation at the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls.
“I really love the feeling of adrenalin, I love being able to connect with the audience,” Shields said.
The actress will let Gayle borrow parts of her personality for shows this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. “I’m a very active talker with my hands,” Shields said. So Gayle will probably be gesturing during her stage time.
Shields, who’s also a member of Saratoga’s Schwacapella singing group, hopes to continue her education in New York City. She’ll study the dramatic arts.
For now, she’ll keep rehearsing with her Lendall — Josiah Martuscello.
“There are no bad experiences I have had,” she said of her time in theater. “You can only learn from these experiences. We do have fun and we do have a great time, but we do learn a lot.”
Micaiah Siemski, Amsterdam High School
Don’t sell crazy at Micaiah Siemski’s house this month. He’s all stocked up.
Siemski, a 17-year-old senior at Amsterdam High School, will play the merry and manic Trinculo in Amsterdam’s upcoming production of “The Tempest.”
“He’s basically a court jester,” Siemski said. “Maybe a little crazier than normal — it is Shakespeare.”
Siemski, who has appeared in Amsterdam productions of “Brighton Beach,” “Murdered to Death” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” — in the last as lead J. Pierpont Finch — loves becoming other people.
“It’s the feeling you get when you’re on stage,” he said. “You can just feel the crowd . . . you can tell when they’re into it. There’s nothing else like it.”
“The Tempest” is set on a remote island and features magic, romance and redemption through characters Prospero, Miranda, Antonio and King Alonso, among others.
Siemski, who also plays bass clarinet in Amsterdam’s Marching Rams band and sings in the school chorus, will give voice to two roles on Nov. 14 and 15. Trinculo, who wears a bright red and blue costume, also wears a hand puppet during the story. The puppet has a big mouth.
“It’s kind of his evil side,” Siemski said. “Whenever he wants to say something mean, his puppet says it for him.”
Like other teen actors appearing on stage this autumn, Siemski hopes to make acting a profession. He’s thinking about Schenectady County Community College right now, and hoping for an internship at Proctors.
“Dream big, right?” he asked. “Aim for the stars and land on the moon. That’s the saying, I think.”
Noah Jerard, Scotia-Glenville High School
Noah Jerard will be heard this coming weekend at Scotia-Glenville High School.
The 17-year-old senior will shout and command. As Oberon, king of the fairies in Scotia-Glenville’s production of “Midsummer Jersey,” Jerard hopes he can cast a spell over the audience.
He’ll have company on stage — 30 Scotia-Glenville actors and actresses will cavort in a play that mixes Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with elements of television’s blue collar “Jersey Shore” series.
“The whole thing takes place on a beach,” said Debbie May, a guidance counselor at the school and director of the theater program.
Oberon, dressed in a crimson gown, gold collar, belt and cape, will survey his sandy kingdom from the top of a lifeguard’s chair.
Jerard has been working the hobby at Scotia-Glenville since his freshman year, and has played a munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz,” a ghost-murderer in “A Haunting We Will Go” and Papa Bear in “Shrek, The Musical.”
“It’s one of my passions,” Jerard said of acting. “I’m very enthusiastic, it’s very relaxing. It’s something refreshing, especially when you’re here with your friends.”
The tall Jerard will be a king of stature, one who uses a deep voice for majestic resonance. Kind of a switch for the teen-ager, who describes himself as outgoing, but kind of modest. He sings in the school’s jazz choir and Tartones vocal group.
“The king is very demanding,” Jerard said. “He gets what he wants, when he wants it.”
At least, Oberon has decent fashion sense. Jerard loves the regal raiment that will come with his command performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“It makes me seem very important,” he said. “And I love the cape. I’m not going to lie — it’s really cool.”
On with the shows
• Amsterdam High School, “The Tempest,” Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14-15, 7:30 p.m.
• Mohonasen High School, Mohon Masque Productions, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7-8, 7 p.m.
• Saratoga Springs High School, “Almost, Maine,” Thursday, Nov. 6, 7p.m.; Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7-8, 7:30 p.m.
• Schenectady High School, Blue Roses Theatre Company, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 12-15, 7 p.m. Matinee performance Saturday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m.
• Scotia-Glenville High School, “Midsummer Jersey,” Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7-8, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 9, 2 p.m.
• Shenendehowa High School, “Noises Off,” Thursday and Friday, Nov. 13-14, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 15, 2 and 7 p.m.