By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary senior Annie Purkey will be busy at the Oregon Thespians State Festival on April 6-7 in Salem.
Along with performing in Defying Gravity, which was selected as one of two high school plays in the state to be showcased at the festival, Purkey will also compete in solo acting after finishing in the top 10 percent of 77 entries at regionals in February.
Actors perform two contrasting monologues totaling three minutes in front of a group of judges. When picking her pieces, Purkey chose two male characters—Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
“A lot of times when you’re looking for monologues, it’s really difficult to find good, strong, powerful female monologues,” Purkey said. “I didn’t want to do a monologue, ‘Oh my boyfriend cheated on me and la-dee-da.’ I wanted a strong character because women can be strong, too. I didn’t think it was that important for those male roles to be played particularly by males. I think that it was suitable for me to do it, too.”
Rosencrantz gave Purkey the opportunity to practice a British accent, which she learned in an advanced acting class at McNary.
“I wanted to bring it back because I enjoyed the feedback that I got from it then,” Purkey said. “I like the accents. They’re fun and then it helps to make that contrast between the two.”
The Merchant of Venice, in which she plays a persecuted Jew, allows Purkey to tackle a more serious subject.
“I chose that one because it is so relevant to today,” Purkey said. “I wanted to do something important. A lot of it has to do with racism and it’s something that’s a huge topic in today’s society.
“I’m not a person of color but as a woman there have been moments where I’ve been looked down upon in sexist ways. I know a little bit of how that feels to be judged and mistreated just because of something you can’t control. It spoke to me and I thought that it had an important message and I enjoyed being that character, who is just fed up with all of the stuff that happened to him.”
The top 10 percent at state will then perform in the Elsinore Theatre but Purkey won’t get the opportunity since she’s also in Defying Gravity and students aren’t allowed to be on the stage more than once.
“It’s just another chance for me perform and get feedback from the judges,” Purkey said of the competition.
Bringing back Defying Gravity, which the McNary theatre department performed back at the beginning of November, has been surreal.
“Whenever shows close, we do a very staged speech after we strike everything and then we have the bare stage to look at and it’s like the transforming nature of theatre so I always come to terms that I’m going to put this character to rest and do something new now,” Purkey said.
“It’s so weird to get to do it again. I’ve never had that opportunity. But it’s fun. Once we started doing it (rehearsing), there were natural rhythms to it and things that we rediscovered right on the spot and it came naturally.”
Staying busy isn’t anything new for Purkey, who played Grandma in The Addams Family musical in January and Lenny in Crimes of the Heart earlier this month. She also won first place in the two-dimensional category at the annual Keizer Art Association show in February for her drawing of former President Abraham Lincoln.
“It’s been crazy,” Purkey said. “I’ve just been trying to be involved in as much as I can in high school while I can. It was my last semester. I think I’m pretty fulfilled.”
While Purkey isn’t sure she’ll do any theatre after high school, she is appreciative of what it has taught her.
“I think it’s good skills to have anyway, a lot of things, people watching and empathy, which has been great and made me who I am,” she said.