BAR HARBOR — Five women gather at an old-fashioned chrome and Formica soda fountain counter. As they sip their sodas or spoon up another mouthful of hot fudge sundae, they reminisce about their high school days 20 years before and their shared passion for the hot new actor James Dean. In fact, they are all wearing bright yellow jackets with the word “Disciples” emblazoned on the back. The jackets are a relic from the James Dean fan club they all founded two decades ago, in 1955, when the movie “Giant” starring the Hollywood heart throb was being shot near their Texas home town.
As the memories emerge, old friendships and hurts are rekindled, old secrets revealed.
This is a scene from the Mount Desert Island High School production of “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” which opens May 8.
Of the 11 cast members, only these five, Chelsea Schroeder, Rosie Avila, Hannah Bouchard, Molly Brown and Mary Paola, have made it back from their spring break to attend this Sunday rehearsal, but neither director Frank Bachman nor costumer Marilee Marchese, who are using the time to fit costumes and try out hair styles, seem a bit concerned.
“Most of the cast have also been involved with show choir or the one act competition, some both,” said Bachman. “They know exactly what they need to have done when they return, and I expect they will all be off book when they come to rehearsal on Monday.”
Well, he should know. He’s had many years experience working with high school kids and is pretty savvy about what they are capable of. He knows it’s not too much to ask his cast to memorize lines and work on characterizations and southern accents in addition to any academic demands they might have and maybe have a little time left over for some vacation fun.
“You know, they really get into a zone,” said Bachman. “They’ve gotten good at managing their time, and they have the energy to put in the work.”
This should be an interesting challenge for the young actors, as the play is set in two time periods: 1955, when the Disciples were formed, and 1975, when its members reconvene at their favorite cafe. Instead of having the same actors play their past and present selves, most of them are double cast, so the actors need to develop matching speech patterns and body language for their characters so the audience will recognize them in each decade.
The tech crew has some challenges ahead as well, coming up with some special effects to usher the audience in and out of the flashback sequences.
Bachman said he chose this play because of its strong characters, touching story and its primarily female cast.
“Chris [Dougherty] is doing ‘Mousetrap’ as the other spring play, which is primarily male characters,” he said,” so it made sense.”
The two directors held joint auditions asking the actors to read for both plays, then discussed together who would fit best in which play.
“I really enjoy this sort of collaboration,” Bachman said. “And as it turned out, everyone who auditioned got cast. It’s great when that happens.”
He acknowledged that it wasn’t lost on him that the soda fountain set from this year’s one act entry “The Dancers” could be recycled for this show.
Already the set looks great, and those of us who really can recall when we thought Jimmy Dean was pretty keen will want to join the gals at the counter, order a sundae or a malt and for a brief time join the fan club.
“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” will be performed Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 10, at 2 p.m. The show does contain adult content and may not be suitable for the younger folks.