PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Liana Frasca knew nothing about the role two weeks before auditioning for Aldonza in Pleasantville High School’s production of "Man of La Mancha." She soon learned the role was the most complex and creative character she might ever have the chance to play during her stage career.
Frasca, a senior, and the rest of the cast are gearing up for the school’s final performances on Friday and Saturday. Both performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online .
Frasca played Nellie Forbush in last year’s play, "South Pacific." She is one of the few performers to earn leading roles for two straight years at the ultra-competitive productions at Pleasantville.
Aldonza is a transformative character in the play. Feisty and fiery at the outset, she thinks so little of herself that she is often abused. Toward the end, Aldonza realizes her self-worth as a woman and human. It is startling to watch Frasca fluidly move between the ranges. She said it's exhausting and challenging, physically and mentally.
“It really is hard,’’ Frasca said. “It’s really two transitions. She goes from massively confused to optimistic to more hurt than she ever has been.”
Frasca said she has to transition her character in minutes, which makes the role more difficult. “The more times I do it, the more difficult it becomes,’’ she said. “I get to know her more and more every time. She gets more complicated every time I play her.”
Frasca said Aldonza’s mood swings sometimes stun her classmates. “At one point," she said. "I was tucked in a corner trying to get myself in the moment and a boy asked me if I was OK. I came up screaming at him. I scared him so much.”
"La Mancha" is a rarity for a high school production, because of its complicated and dark story. The story revolves around Don Quixote and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing before the Spanish Inquisition.
The school benefited from having strong performers in Frasca and James McCarthy, a junior who stars as Don Quixote. “James has this enormous range,’’ she said. “If he didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be able to cast the show. When it was announced we were doing this, I think it shocked the community a bit. We’ve done a lot of Disney shows in the past. But it’s one of our favorite productions we've ever put on.”
Frasca, a member of the National Honor Society and International National Honor Society, said with school work and late night rehearsals, she finds herself exhausted after each show. “I go home and throw the blankets over my head,’’ she said. “Pleasantville is so dedicated to the show. My biggest achievement this year might have been staying healthy. Last year I got the flu.”
In the end, Frasca said she’s proud of her performance and all of the students in the production.
“It gets better every time,’’ she said. “After each show I just sit there and cry. It’s been amazing to be a part of it.”