Of Mice And Men Review

Lennie+and+George

Lennie and George

Angeliq Rigby and Raquel Perry

Osceola County School for the Arts presented its last Blackbox production of the 2018-2019 school year with the classic,  Of Mice and Men, directed by Natalie DeJesus.

Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck that takes place during the Great Depression. The book follows the lives of ranch workers George and Lennie, who move to California to seek new job opportunities. However, the duo faces many struggles along the way, some due to Lennie, who is mentally challenged. When asked about why she chose to do Of Mice and Men as a blackbox, Natalie said she wanted to raise awareness about mental health. “I wanted to showcase to people that sometimes mental health is not what it seems. That it’s not a problem and sometimes people can’t control it. Sometimes the sweetest people come from mental illness.” The blackbox was bitter-sweet, causing many different reactions from audience members throughout the show, from laughing at commentaries made by certain characters, to even crying. 

Justin Banton, a junior drama major at OCSA played the character of Lennie struggles with autism. When asked about how the process of building up to play this character and how it felt, Justin responded, “It definitely takes a lot of research and dedication to get into it and pull this character off. I went to people who dealt with kids with autism to get a glimpse of what Lennie was like and the behaviors and intelligence they described as special. After watching a panel of people with autism, this girl told me ‘autism isn’t a disability, rather an ability and advantage to see through a different lense.’ With that, I took it and apply it to experience something new and learn to be unique.” Justin Banton says throughout the rehearsal experience he has learned to push passed his limits and take risks. “There are a lot of objectives that Lennie wants to surpass such as getting land, tending rabbits, it’s so viable when you’re just a guy on a ranch who does not have a disability, but he encounters obstacles that forbid him form things he wants because he’s not ‘normal’…It takes time to figure out the specifics, it takes courage to enforce it and as an actor you have the job of being truthful and specific”. 

Ryan Murray, a senior drama major at OCSA who played George, talks about his experience and what he has learned while being a part of this blackbox. “I’ve discovered that friendship means a lot to me. This show is my last one at OCSA and doing it with one of my best friends, Justin Banton, is such an extreme honor and joy.” Ryan will be auditioning for acting schools in the coming weeks and he believes the process has shown him that he’s never alone as he can carry the support of friends wherever he goes. 

A few non-drama majors also participated in the show. In the end, many would agree that they all had a significant part in drawing out an array of emotions from audience members.  

This is junior drama major, Mikkhail Serrano’s first time stage-managing a blackbox. As Of Mice and Men’s stage manager, he was responsible for picking a designer, as well as designing the set and lights for the show; designing the lights was something that challenged him, but also allowed him to “venture into somewhere else with my brain which I loved.” Even though he’s a drama major, Mickey explained how he got interested in the technical aspects of productions. “I was definitely inspired by my new motto of trying new things this year, and stage managing and light designing it really helped but also it was something I saw my mentors Hailey and Wesley do and I was inspired by them as well to do something new.”  

Junior dance major, Imannuel Rodriguez tells us what his biggest challenge was being an actor for the show as a dance major. “I would say the most challenging part at first I thought was going to be memorizing but actually ended up being learning how to connect and embracing the lines and really portraying the character.” Imannuel says that his castmates motivated him to get better by constantly telling him things that he can improve on not only for the production but for the future, and they all have a “good understanding and knowledge of acting itself”. Iman was inspired to be in the production because he after the production of West Side Story, he wanted to do more things outside his major and although he knew it was a challenge, he was willing to put in the work. 

Each actor worked hard to develop the character they played and believes they did a good job at getting the show’s message across. Ryan hopes that after seeing the show, audience members will reflect on their own relationships and understand that companionship is crucial to our development and we often take advantage of it. “I think the best thing we did was develop the relationship between characters. It’s one of the simplest parts of acting, but it was still so hard” 

Of Mice and Men was a popular blackbox that was enjoyed by many! There will be other upcoming shows in the future including James the Giant Peach, and Les Miserables