HRVHS drama presents: Does My Head Look Big in This?

Peer pressure and expectations are tough enough when you’re in high school.

The complications multiply when you decide on principle to stand out from the crowd, based on your belief in a religion that is misunderstood or even hated.

The oft-painful drama of high school life, heightened by a Muslim girl’s decision to wear a head-covering to school, drive the drama and message of “Does My Head Look Big In This?”, presented by Hood River Valley High School drama department and opening Friday at Bowe Theater. This is the first production of the play by Elizabeth Wong and Jeff Gottesfeld.

Catch the show

Feb. 28 and March 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 2 p.m. at HRVHS.

Tickets:

$7 for adults

$5 students and seniors.

Junior Cayla Sacre more than holds down the challenging lead of Amal, a Muslim who chooses to adhere to her religious customs but also wants to be just like the other kids. A boy who cares for her and a couple of loyal, if perplexed friends, are counterpoints to a bullying crowd led by Tia, played by Gabriella Whitehead, who has had smaller roles at HRVHS and now takes on the key role of the mean girl.

It’s a new dimension for Whitehead, who director Rachel Harry said is “by nature very sweet,” and a break-out role for Sacre, who was a dancer in last fall’s “Reach 4 It!” and 2013’s “Legally Blonde,” and had a small role in Hamlet in 2012. She’s been involved in theater since middle school, in Rebekah Meyer’s private drama program.

Sacre had understudied for Noalani Euwer as Leila in “Does My Head Look Big In This?”, which director Rachel Harry said prepared her well for the task of understudying for the much larger role of Amal, after junior Delaney Barbour could not continue due to health problems.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication and having to cram a lot of stuff into a week and a half,” Sacre said. “We’ve been learning a bunch as the year has gone about everything. It’s so awesome to learn about this religion I’d otherwise have no connection to.”

Production Facts

Amal: Cayla Sacre

Leila: Noalani Euwer

Eileen: Claire Hamada

Simone: Rhue Buddenbeck

Tia: Gabriella Whitehead

Adam: August Beard

Josh: Ben Dane

Student 2: Neil Hauer

Mrs. Walsh: Sophie Finstad

Dad: Marcos Galvez

Mom: Rebecca Wolf

Mrs. Vaselli: Rhianna Salman

Leila’s Mom: Olivia Newcomb

Mr. Pearse: Graham Sholar

Cathy Peldyak and Sarah Delano did the costumes and Delano sewed the silk backdrop panels (top right). Art teacher Amirra Malak, herself of Muslim descent, assisted in the set design and construction along with Jeff Lorenzen. Hossein Salman and Rhianna Salman offered cultural and linguistic support, along with Rebecca Wolf’s help with Hebrew pronunciation by the character of Mrs. Vaselli.

She joked that she read the script “about a million times, it feels like,” and has found time during school to do one-on-one scenes with other actors.

“Kayla’s been awesome. She is a wonderful actor,” Harry said. She knew she had an adaptable performer, having asked Sacre initially to create a character for the play, “Someone who starts out one way and then evolves.”

“So we allowed her to learn other characters and pick up those parts and she’s now able to do this. It is tough on these guys to have a part and then lose a part, she’s always been the ultimate professional,” Harry said.

Barbour has been supportive of her cast-mates. “Her prognosis is really good and they are very positive about it, but they don’t know when she is coming back,” said Harry.

“It’s incredible how supportive the kids are. It’s counter to the story of the play and I will talk about that in my director’s notes,” she said.

In this production, “We have no Tias,” Sacre said.

“No, but there are Tias out in the world, and these guys support each other,” Harry said.

The theme of bullying is explored in terms of its manifestations and its causes, be it the typical kind some youths inflict on others, or bullying inspired by religious intolerance.

“I think it’s going to be really relatable,” Sacre said. “I think it’s becoming a lot more common that people are understanding and seeing it more as a problem, and it’s becoming a phenomenon more and more people are paying attention to.

“Even Amal is kind of a bully and seeing that even people who are good and work to do good can be bullies, and you have to try to be self-aware and know what you are doing to other people,” Sacre said.

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