"Speech and Debate" is not your typical show about teenagers. It is an honest and sometimes uncomfortable portrayal of challenges in high school.
The author, Stephen Karam, said that he "specifically aimed to create characters who push through their pain."
"Speech and Debate" opens Feb. 23 and runs through the 25. Performances will be held at 2905 Montana Avenue. Shows start at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday.
The play, a dark comedy with music, concerns three misfit teenagers and their attempts to expose a drama teacher who preys on teen boys. Solomon is a reporter for the school newspaper; Howie is a gay teen who is solicited by the school's drama teacher on the internet; and Diwata is an aspiring actress/singer, but with no talent.
They decide to perform a musical version of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," combined with time travel and a young Abraham Lincoln, to address the issue of gay adults at the school.
Director Chris Kellison-Decker said he wanted to produce this show in Billings because it deals with topics that are still relevant today. LGBTQ+ teens still struggle to be seen and heard every day.
"Theatre is an amazing forum to talk about subjects that most people shy away from and this show smacks you right in the face with relevant issues in a funny, if not slightly twisted manner," Decker said.
All of the young actors face challenges in their roles and were pushed outside of their comfort zone, he said. Alyssa Principe plays Diwata. Principe said playing Diwata has been scary.
"Diwata is pretty much how I am on the inside but I never feel comfortable enough to be that way outwardly. It’s challenging for me to do silly things on stage because I don’t like looking crazy, but she’s such a funny character with a lot of depth to her so it’s been fun to kinda make her my own," she said.
Ben Sholar plays Solomon, who writes for the school paper and is working to expose the teacher preying on students. Howie, played by Kievan McCave, has had to "learn to be Goldilocks" by not being too much or too little. He plays a gay teen who just moved to Salem and is just trying to get through school. Bekah Kellison-Decker plays Jan, a journalist writing an article about the students.
The Deckers opened up their home for the rehearsal process. The group has grown very close during the process and has helped each other through some difficult times.