Skyline goes to “Middletown”


Kevin Perez/The Skyline View

Cast members rehearse lines for upcoming play “Middletown”.

The first and only play of the semester is being put together in building 1, with a few students and one devoted instructor working tirelessly to make magic happen onstage.

The play is “Middletown,” a small town of average people leading average lives. And each one is falling apart.

“I want the audience to understand that life is too great to let it control you,” said Clayborne Go, the second-year Skyline College student set to star in “Middletown.”

The play revolves around the residents of a small town as they grapple with and all fall victim to their own individual existential crises. Go’s character, John Dodge, joins this struggle as he constantly searches for what awaits us after death.

“He is always moving on from one project to another,” Go said, “He just wants to find things [to do], and he is always trying to find new things to make his life more interesting.”

Luckily for Go, he can relate to the character on a personal level, making it that much easier to get into the role.

“He is an ambitious person,” Go said, “Sometimes I’ll end up taking on two projects at a time.”

This project in particular is one in a new wave theatrical productions that Skyline College has put on after decades of hiatus.

Kevin Simmers, who began teaching drama at Skyline three years ago, and has directed every subsequent production, is directing “Middletown”. It will mark his fourth show since the program returned, which is an achievement in and of itself.

“I taught the first drama class at Skyline in 35 years,” Simmers said, “I had been trying for 20 years to finally get theater back on campus, and we finally got it.”

Despite his enthusiasm for the revival of theater at Skyline, “Middletown” was not Simmers’ first choice of production for the Fall 2016 semester. He originally pitched Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which Simmers credits as one of the great American plays, and it is a play from which “Middletown” draws heavily.

“Some of the critiques of ‘Middletown’ when it came out, was that it was kind of a contemporary ‘Our Town’” Simmers said, “And when I pitched it to the students, they didn’t really want to do ‘Our Town.’ So this is our little compromise.”

Going forward, Simmers wants to focus on not letting some of the dark themes overshadow lightheartedness and humor that can be found in the play as well.

“There’s a tendency for [the play] to go dark and I don’t want it to go dark,” Simmers said. “I want the words and ideas to trigger thinking, rather than placing that on the actors. I don’t want them to [intentionally] play dark, I just want them to be truthful to the characters.”

After only rehearsing for a few weeks, Simmers and the rest of his cast and crew already have their eyes set on creating an intimate and immersive experience for the audience, and have already begun experimenting with different set designs, with the ultimate goal of attracting a larger crowd to the Skyline Theater.

“The actors deserve to have 150 – 200 people in the theater for each performance,” Simmers said, “We don’t get that, but that is what I am hoping for someday.”