Fine Arts article

PVCC students learn new skills in production of 'Leading Ladies'

Leading Ladies
Photo by Doug James

Olivia Martin (left), Jacob Nalley (center), and Kolten Ledesma (right) rehearse lines in preparation for their roles in the PVCC stage production of Leading Ladies, on
Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in the Black Box Theater.

Learning how to apply foundation makeup, shaving your legs and underarms and the fastest way to put on a ball gown may not seem like the kinds of things you would expect to learn in a college course. Furthermore, guys don’t usually need to know how to shave their underarms or how to quickly put on a dress, so learning these things seemed especially strange to Paradise Valley Community College students Kolten Ledesma and Jacob Nalley.

Ledesma and Nalley have been starring in the PVCC stage production of “Leading Ladies,” written by Ken Ludwig, and directed by Gary Zaro, PVCC Humanities Faculty member. Ledesma has been playing a dual role as the male lead, Leo, and his female counterpart, Maxine, in this production. Ledesma’s cast mate, Nalley, is also playing a dual role in this production as his male costar, Jack, and Jack’s female counterpart, Stephanie.

The story follows two Englishmen, Leo and Jack as they struggle to scratch out even a modest living as Shakespearean actors in America. Leo finds a notice in the paper that says, Florence an elderly rich woman is looking for her two long lost relatives from England. It seems Florence is on her deathbed and looking to place her money in the hands of Max and Steve, whom she hasn’t seen since they were young children. Leo hatches a plan to impersonate Max and Steve and get the inheritance money putting Leo and Jack back on the path to financial freedom. When it turns out that Max and Steve are really women, Maxine and Stephanie, and that ailing Florence isn’t quite dead yet, Leo and Jack must dress like women to get the inheritance and the hilarity ensues.

For this production, both Ledesma and Nalley had to endure the leg and underarm shaving, the wearing of dresses and a wig, and the application of female specific makeup like eye shadow and blush. Ledesma found the experience of putting on a dress gave him a new appreciation of the things women deal with on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, the switching of gender roles in this play required both actors to go through several rapid costume changes during the play.

Because both Leo and Jack are from merry old England in this play, both Ledesma and Nalley would need to learn and perfect an English-accent for their parts.

“One of the hardest things about doing an accent is maintaining it,” says Nalley, “there were times when I would just slip into another accent. In fact, just the other day it came out sounding like Sean Connery ,” the Scottish actor famous for his role as James Bond.

When asked, Ledesma said he drew inspiration for his English accent from the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the villain, Kahn, in the newest Star Trek release “Into Darkness.”

Leading Ladies
Photo by Doug James

Paradise Valley Community College theater student, Kolten Ledesma, applies makeup to achieve his gender change from Leo to Maxine.

In addition, both Ledesma and Nalley would need to remember skills learned in their combat fighting and choreography classes for a sword-fighting scene in the first act.

Several of the other cast members found their roles would require other challenges, for example PVCC student,Stephanie Garlick, who plays dying heiress, Florence, has to endure extensive stage makeup and a wig to make her look much older.

Zaro says, “It’s fun to watch these students come in and work hard and grow . You see the fruits of their hard work by the time they are ready to leave here and move on to greater things. ”

What does Zaro like best about working with student?

“T he thing about an acting class is you can’t just sit in the back of the room with a cheat sheet and hope you do well on the test,” he says.

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