All in the interpretation

Audiences will have some insight into how much effect an actor has on a role next weekend at the Minot High School-Central Campus production of “Incognito,” by N. Richard Nusbaum.

“Incognito” was first published in 1941 under Nusbaum’s own name before the playwright went on to pen such outstanding shows as “The Rainmaker” and “Parting at Imsdorf” under the pseudonym of N. Richard Nash. “Incognito” is a mystery comedy with 14 female and seven male roles, so it is considered a large cast going in.

“We just had so many students who wanted to be involved,” said Chad Gifford, director. “I thought I’d try out a complete cast of understudies who could maybe do one of the shows. Then it evolved into ‘Cast A’ and ‘Cast B.’ Cast A performs Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, while Cast B will perform Thursday, Feb. 28, and Sunday, March 3.

“We had real good luck with the right breakdown male and female actors, too,” Gifford continued. “Well, except for Von Stumm, who’s played by Brandon Christman in Cast A and Katya Verbitsky in Cast B.”

The only roles not doubled are Sailors 2 and 3, played by Tyler Johnson and Hayley Walter in all performances.

“There are some nice strong characters, too,” said Gifford. “Like ‘the drunk’ and ‘snotty uppity girl’ who alienates everyone until she turns out not to be who she seems.

“But almost no one turns out to be who they seem to be. It’s like an Agatha Christie thriller that way.”

It was written in the 1940s about the ’40s and has presented some challenges to Gifford teaching the students the history of the time as well.

“It takes place in World War II, and there are Nazis in it,” he said. “It’s a realistic drama in that sense, with some tough characters.”

Some of the lines are delivered in German, and Gifford took advantage of a language teacher at the school to get the accents correct.

“The interesting thing now is to see the two casts interpreting the show,” Gifford said. “They both start with the same script, same blocking, but (it evolves into) two different shows.

“You should come to see both and compare them. It wouldn’t work without such a great group of kids.”

His students participate in all aspects of the production, in some cases doubling just as the cast does. He relies on his technical assistant director Beth Doster as well as his student directors Elijah Gill and Kaylee Armstrong. Because it’s set in-period, he’s happy to have the wardrobe crew he has, too, including Verbitsky and Savannah Harbaugh as heads.

Cost of the show is $7 for adults and $5 for students, payable at the door.