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Starlight presents behind-the-scenes look at community theater in comedy ‘Play On!’


Elizabeth Medora

PHOENIX – “What’s the difference between a play and a parachute? When a parachute opens, you got nothing to worry about.” So says one of the characters in Starlight Community Theater’s ‘Play On!,’ which starts Friday, Oct. 16, at Starlight's north Phoenix theater.

This “show within a show” details the trials and tribulations of a community theater cast trying to put on a production of a play when everything that can go wrong does. Each member of the all-teen Starlight cast is playing two parts: the part of an actor in the ill-fated play ‘Murder Most Foul’ and the part of a cast member in ‘Murder Most Foul.’ Lots of twists, turns, and hilarity await the cast, as they valiantly attempt through it all to “play on.”

Julia Burks, who is playing the parts of Smitty Smith and Doris, called ‘Play On!’ an all-around “fun show.”

“It’s a lot more funny when it goes wrong!” Burks said.

At 14 years old, Burks is an award-winning actress and has already been in 14 shows; ‘Play On!’ will be her second show with Starlight. She and the other cast members are working hard on practicing their parts, including learning the areas in which their on-stage personas make mistakes and stumble over their lines.

Burks said in the first rehearsals, the cast would have to correct themselves after delivering the right line – because the character they’re portraying delivers the line wrong.

“The first few times, it was, ‘Oh, wait, I forgot to mess up!’” she said, laughing.

Chelsea Carll, who’s playing Polly Benish and Lady Margaret, agreed that the “mistake” lines were a challenge to learn.

“That is the hardest thing – to mess up on purpose,” Carll said.

Carll, a 15-year-old award-winning veteran actress, has been in 45 shows, 20 with Starlight. She called ‘Play On!’ “my favorite show I’ve ever been in," describing ‘Play On!’ as “focusing on the wit."

“Come for a laugh!” Carll said, encouraging the community to come enjoy the show.

‘Play On!’ director Ric Alpers said the Starlight cast is doing an “outstandingly good job.”

“They’ve been a fun group to work with,” Alpers said.

‘Play On!’ is a straight show, meaning there’s no singing or dancing. That means a lot of dialogue for the ensemble cast to learn. The cast will also have quick costume changes; in the 10-minute intermission between Acts I and II, the cast will have to completely change costumes. Between Acts II and III, the cast will have to get in full makeup, again in just 10 minutes. Their dedication to making the show work is evident in their preparation and practice.

“I love this show – it’s very fun,” said Will Rippenkroeger, who is portraying Billy Carewe and Stephen Sellers.

Rippenkroeger is a Starlight veteran; he’s been a part of every Starlight show in the last few years. While this keeps the 18-year-old award-winning actor extremely busy, his love of acting and music makes it worth the effort.

The well-trained Starlight crew has had to rework their on-stage mindset for the unique setup of ‘Play On.’ Rippenkroeger called ‘Play On!’ a “hard part,” saying that he had to “unlearn all my natural things on-stage.”

That’s part of what makes ‘Play On!’ so much fun – it’s a wholly different look at theater. The behind-the-scenes look at what happens when everything goes wrong but ‘the show must go on’ promises an extremely entertaining show.

Rippenkroeger and the rest of the cast are urging the community to come to ‘Play On!’ and laugh along with them.

“If you don’t show up, you are missing out on an awesome show!” Rippenkroeger emphasized.

‘Play On!’ runs Oct. 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, and 25. See show times and buy tickets at!play-on/ci6u. All shows will be held at Starlight Community Theater, 1611 W Whispering Wind Dr, just south of Happy Valley Rd., in north Phoenix.