A story about self-discovery will unfold as Westerville South High School thespians present "What I Did Last Summer" by A.R. Gurney.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, through Saturday, Sept. 9, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10, at the school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

"This play is about discovering who you are," said Derrick McPeak, director and tech director. "It's about a teenage boy learning about himself through a set of very different and very conflicting ideals: one conservative and one a little more bohemian."

The boy, Charlie, struggles to find balance between being a free spirit and walking the straight and narrow.

"What teenager doesn't experience that?" McPeak said. "This play is ultimately about finding your own way.

"As exhilarating as that is, there are also lots of bumps along the way and you might end up somewhere you never expected. It's a good lesson for a group of high school kids," he said.

The setting is a vacation colony on the shores of Lake Erie in 1945, during the final stages of World War II.

Although Charlie intended to spend the summer loafing and socializing with his friends, the need for spending money forces him to take a job as handyman for an iconoclastic, bohemian art teacher, Anna Trumbull. Trumbull is a former member of the "upper crust" who has lost both her fortune and her regard for the ideals of her upbringing.

Sensing a kindred spirit in Charlie, she tries to stretch his mind by teaching him painting and sculpture and exposing him to "radical" ideas about life and love which, in time, persuade Charlie to reject the notion of going back to school.

The result is a showdown between Anna and Charlie's conservative mother, involving a clash of philosophies which raises as many questions as it answers.

Junior Oliver Runyon, who plays Charlie, said it was a challenge to balance the immaturity of his character.

"I definitely had some trouble trying to get into that sweet spot of angst and understanding," he said.

Senior Madi Staten, who plays Anna Trumbull, said what was most challenging to her was getting the character and development just right for her character.

"I had to get those really sincere moments to be as honest as the character is," she said. "I learned so much from doing this show. I learned a lot about the culture of the 1940s, and how important social class was to the structure of daily life."

Staten said she hopes audiences take away the strong lessons that are presented in the show.

"Although Anna is known to exaggerate, she shows that being happy and staying true to what you believe in, despite the strict values of social class, is more important than anything," she said.

Senior Abby Messina, who takes on the role of Grace, said the story is full of vastly different characters.

"Finding the connections between all of us and our characters is a challenging task," she said. "Once we fit the puzzle pieces together, everything falls into place."

Senior Caroline Warrick, who plays Bonny, said the most challenging part of the play has been adjusting to the thrust stage, with audience members seated on three sides.

"You have to be aware of all of them at once, rather than just acting to the front," she said.

"The show is more intimate than other shows because the audience is up close and personal and will have the chance to experience theater in an entirely different way."

McPeak said the play also leaves everything open for interpretation.

"It has exposed our technical crew students to a form of design that a lot of high school students don't get to experience: the abstract," he said. "So many shows are rooted in such a strong sense of realism. It's been rewarding to watch our crew kids stretch their artistic muscles and create something different."

Tickets cost $6 and will be available at the door.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla