“The Death and Life of Larry Benson” is an emotional play about the struggling family of a soldier, Larry Benson, who returns home three years after he was reported missing in action. Yet, upon his homecoming, Benson is entirely different, someone no one in the town recognizes. Reserved for freshmen and sophomores, this play will be performed April 11-14, 2022 in the studio theater in room 3202 at 7 p.m.
The play focuses primarily on the emotional struggles of Larry’s family, from a tormented sister to a struggling mother to an aggressive father. Freshman Shea Korman who plays mother Freda Benson, stated, “I have the honor of playing Freda Benson who is such an awesome character. She really is the glue for a lot of relationships in the show and is usually the one who tries to keep everything together when it’s falling apart. Freda has a huge heart and always seems to know the right thing to do.”
Sophomore Sophie Simon expresses what her appeal with playing sister Jessie Benson is. “My character deals with many complexities throughout the show. Jessie has inner conflicts regarding her relationships with other characters. She feels guilty for a lot of what has happened to her family, and this blame sits with her as she tries to remedy problems in the house.” Simon said. “Preparing for this role and show in general was truly an incredible experience. We spent a lot of time dissecting the script to ensure that everything felt authentic and truthful to real life and the context of the play.”
To get their roles, the actors had to undergo a series of auditions, with various qualifying rounds and chemistry readings among the aspiring contendants. Many prepared by researching the play and memorizing all lines, hoping to impress as much as possible to get their desired role. “The auditions were super enjoyable because I got to see a lot of people work together that I hadn’t really seen perform before, and I got to work with some new people as well. I would say for me when Shea (who plays Freda) and I were first paired up the connection of the characters was pretty instant. I think when we did that audition scene in the callbacks was when I really started to see the roles in both of us and it’s been a blast to work with everyone in the cast since,” sophomore Christopher Moody said.
From then on, the actors had daily rehearsals for three months. They have only been given short breaks during this long period of time, but the actors have been working nonstop to prepare for the play. “Obviously that all sounds like it might be less fun than it actually is; we definitely worked hard and played very hard throughout the whole process. It was a lot of fun,” freshman Nathan Rothbard, who plays lead Larry Benson, said.
A shorter and smaller play than the American Heritage thespians usually perform, its intimacy and emotional draw appealed to many of the actors. “The smaller room we’re doing it in really emphasizes the connections of the characters and how important each character is to the plot and how much each character means to the others. The emotional effect is also really powerful to me because while the situation might not be the most relatable, the struggling family and mother who cares so much about her son is something that I feel a lot of people can relate to and really connect to,” Moody said.
“I would say that all of us in the cast have worked really hard to understand the setting of the play and go beyond just the words on the page and blocking of the play. We had multiple rehearsals where we would discuss the time and place that these characters are living in and how that influences them. We really took a deep dive into the history and I think that helped to separate our own personalities from the characters and bring them to life,” Moody said.