More live theater in the area thanks to these St. Paul High School seniors

Sometimes, no matter how hard you rack your brain for a school project idea, nothing comes to mind.

Then there’s the case of St. Paul High School senior Drew Haynes.

People have told him that public relations would be a good major for him, considering his outgoing personality. Haynes admitted that when he started talking as a toddler, he’d often say a mouthful.

“As a kid I was a non-stop gab,” said the 18-year-old son of Dave Haynes and Julie Fox.

When Haynes learned that two classmates were putting together an annual dinner theater for St. Paul for their senior service project, he realized he could combine his love of publicity with his interest in live theater.

“It’s right up my alley, I’m excited,” said Haynes, who is quick with a smile and whose brown eyes shine as he speaks.

“It really worked well. I was glad they asked me to be a part of it,” Haynes said.

He was referring to fellow seniors Marcella Largent and Emily Gerome.

Haynes said he’s been going to local businesses to seek sponsorships and raffle items.

“Most of the people were more than willing to help us out,” Haynes said. “We were very well received.”

He’s secured the services of Catering by Design in Norwalk to serve pre-show meals. The first show is not only selected, but will open sooner than you might think. “Reality Bites Back,” is scheduled for performances at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 in the St. Paul Social Hall. The cast has been practicing for two months.

The show centers on rich entrepreneur Martin Duckworth, who loves reality shows and has invented a game — a “combination of the best (and worst!) of ’Survivor’ and ’Apprentice,’” according to a description of the play. “By the end of the event, the winner might not be who can ’outwit’ or ’outlast’ but who can outlive!.’”

Haynes and Gerome said, along with Largent, they’ve ordered about a dozen scripts, which should keep the dinner theater operational for years. Haynes and Gerome said they’ve paid first-time performance fees, which should reduce the costs of future performances. So far, all expenses have been out-of-pocket. Ticket sales will fund the caterer’s bills and script prices.

Student actors will comprise the casts of the productions, which will feature a different genre each year. “Reality Bites Back” is a murder mystery.

Haynes said he doesn’t like performing on stage.

“I’m a terrible performer,” he said, adding memorizing so many lines is hard for him. However, throughout his high school career, he’s played the trumpet in the pit for St. Paul’s spring musicals. Haynes said he also enjoys watching theater as an escape.

“I’m definitely engrossed in it,” he said.

So, apparently is Largent.

“I wanted to give students within the St. Paul school system a chance to explore and become more involved with theatrical arts,” she said. I have been acting and performing for over 10 years.

“Theater means so much to me and it is an art form that is so universal and expressive. It is my passion and it has shaped me as a person. It has allowed me to experience diversity within people and it has allowed me to become more self confident in everything I do. I hope to instill a piece of my love for theater within St. Paul and to show just how important theater truly is.”

Gerome has been acting since third grade and took dancing lessons as a kindergartner.Her first lead role came in fifth grade, when she played a boy — Oliver Twist, the hero of Charles Dickens tale which pushing for social reform, particularly in the treatment of orphans in 19th century English workhouses.

Gerome played the part with Norwalk-based Curtain Call Children’s Theatre, run by Norwalk resident Jill Wheeler. Gerome said the part “really built confidence” in her.

The teenager said part of why she loves theater is that “you can be anything on stage.”

She acted in last year’s St. Mary Catholic Church dinner theater production and thought it would be a good idea for St. Paul to come up with its own dinner theater. Part of the proceeds will help start a drama club at St. Paul; the school has a drama department and a speech and drama club that’s more geared toward speech, Gerome said. She added she hopes to have the drama club operational by the start of the second semester this school year.

Haynes and Gerome said St. Paul English teacher Jennifer Thobe backs them and Largent in their efforts.

Gerome said after she, Haynes and Largent graduate, Thobe will handle the majority of the dinner theater’s operations.

But for now, the high school seniors are focused on “Reality Bites Back.”

“It’s going really great,” Gerome said.

“It really is,” Haynes responded.