The Columbus Academy Upper School Theatre Program will present a show that hasn't been performed by many high schools -- "The Theory of Relativity" -- Thursday, April 19, through Saturday, April 21.
Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Schoedinger Theatre at the school, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road.
"This is a different kind of show," said Stefan Farrenkopf, the show's director and an English teacher at the school.
"It was commissioned by a university in Canada, in the hopes of giving their acting students an opportunity to play roles that were appropriate for their own age," he said. "It's a really cool show, and we've fallen in love with it."
Farrenkopf said it's a new show that hasn't been done by many high schools because it's unconventional.
The show, with music by Neil Bartram and book by Brian Hill, explores the connections between people with humor and drama by introducing a diverse group of college-aged characters who share their joys and struggles.
"It is non-narrative, told through a series of songs and monologues, and each of the cast members has a moment to shine, either in song or in a monologue," Farrenkopf said.
He said it feels modern and immediate and relevant to the students by exploring young lives without reducing them to millennial stereotypes.
"Our actors are playing characters that they relate to, while also having to stretch themselves in performance," Farrenkopf said.
"It's pretty great, really. The songs are fantastic. I don't know if I've seen a cast grow so quickly through such a passionate connection to the material," he said.
Jack Reifeis, a senior from Gahanna, plays Oliver in the show.
He said he has been involved in plays and musicals at Columbus Academy for four years, but this show is unlike anything he or the school has done before.
"I believe that is what makes this show so special and interesting," Reifeis said. "There are no characters in the traditional sense, just simply people -- much like real life -- allowing audiences to connect with the actors far easier."
He said the story also is unique in that it doesn't follow the normal narrative structure.
"To help the audience feel an even greater connection, we have added seats on the stage, to create a sense of community and togetherness between the actors and the audience," Reifeis said. "As an actor, this will be an interesting experience to have audience members so close. It will break the barrier between cast and audience, creating a connection between us all."
Aylah Mendenhall, a junior from Gahanna, plays Caroline and sings the number "Me and Ricky."
"Her story is about how her life unfolded in the arms of this man (Ricky), who used her and left her emotionally and physically insecure," she said. "Her song describes how they first met and how her friends even warned her to stay away from him. But I find that she is a character that has trouble letting go of the things that aren't good for her, because they are the only things that show her any type of affection."
Throughout the number, Mendenhall said, the audience will see her relive her memories, and regain her strength and independence in the end.
"What the audience will take away from this show is the fact that each person in the world is connected by the things that make us different," Mendenhall said. "Whether you're a girl waiting at a bus stop or a boy that recites the numbers of pi when he's anxious, the 'Theory of Relativity' is in fact the reason we are all connected. This show has continually proven to me that we as individuals would be nothing if it weren't for the people in our lives."
Junior Abigail Fisher of Gahanna is part of the show's chorus.
"This is my first year doing high school theater and I'm really enjoying it," she said. "I think the audience will enjoy that the cast never leaves the stage, and how different the show is from most high school performances."
Fisher said the cast has put in a lot of work to make sure it's a fun and different show.
Reifeis said the school is lucky to have the guidance of musical director Amy Brooks, Farrenkopf and technical director Scott Dillon, as well as many others.
Other cast members are Olivia Pierre-Louis, a freshman from Gahanna, who plays Amy; Emily Munster, a senior from Blacklick and New Albany, who plays Catherine 1; Claire Budzik, a junior from New Albany, who plays Catherine 2; Yas Salon, a senior from New Albany, who plays Jenny; Sidney Edson, a junior from Westerville, who plays Julie; Julia Leet, a senior from Grandview, who plays Mira; Mira Bhasin, a junior from Dublin, who plays Sara; Marcus Grewal, a junior from New Albany, who plays Adam and Anthony; Peter DiMaggio, a junior from Powell, who plays Ryan and Mike; and Evan Farrenkopf, a junior from Gahanna, who plays Paul.
Tickets cost $7 for general admission but are free for Columbus Academy students and faculty/staff.
Parental guidance is recommended.