By Elise Frankel
“The Princess Bride,” which originally came out on the big screen in 1987 and was directed by Rob Reiner, was brought to life on the stage of the Alameda High Fred Chacon Little Theater last month. After rehearsing for two months, the cast performed six shows during the first two weeks in November.
This year’s cast included junior Spencer Lee and sophomore Katia Pokotylo as the main characters, Westley and Buttercup.
“Princess Bride” is a favorite among the cast. “Princess bride is something that I grew up with, Prince Humperdink was my favorite character,” Lee said.
Being so familiar with the movie proved a dilemma for Lee when it came to getting in character. “Because it was a stage adaptation, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be close to the movie but I also wanted my own take on the character while being authentic to the book,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are very well versed in the movie and I didn’t know how I’d compare.”
Lee’s pre-show rituals included yoga and hanging out with the cast. “It’s a fun show. It’s a comedy, so I’m lucky the cast is very fun.”
Lee is no stranger to the stage, but he has never taken a drama class. “I’ve been acting since freshman year. I’ve been in “Clue,” “Mean Girls,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Princess Bride” and [I am] auditioning for the new musical “Dogfight.”
In addition to performing in a beloved story, Lee says the play also lets him act on a favorite childhood pastime: “The fencing was always my obsession as a kid,” he said. Lee also had high praise for his co stars. “I think Ellie is phenomenal with everything she did as Prince Humperdinck. He was my favorite character growing up, so to see her deliver it so well made me really happy,” he said. “But from the movie itself, from the storyline, the love cliche, it set the standard for typical fantasy romance.”
Out of the many plays he’s acted in, Lee says “Princess Bride” is by far his favorite, “I’ve gotten to work with such a wonderful cast. It was such a new group of people, all new cast and crew. I really enjoyed this refreshing new wave of people that were excited to work but there was no egos or anything involved there.”
“I’ve always been a really shy kid and stage has really let me express myself and get out of my shy bubble and push the limit and just force myself to be in the most uncomfortable situation but it really exceeds my shy shell,” Lee says. Lee hopes to continue acting in college and beyond, acknowledging that the life of an actor is hard but he plans to pursue his passion.
Pokotylo is a seasoned actress who started acting at age five. Since then she’s acted with companies such as Kids Take the Stage. In high school she’s taken drama one and performed in “Footloose.”
Her prep for “Princess Bride” was extensive.“ I’d seen the movie twice before auditioning and I found the script online so I reviewed that before the audition. Then I got the role and I watched the play twice again. Then I read the book and watched the movie again.”
Getting in character was difficult for Pokotylo, “She’s actually really different from me and I didn’t really identify with her. She had thoughts but they weren’t very deep. She’s very ditzy so I didn’t like to think of myself as ditzy.”
Still, Pokotylo said she found ways to make the character her own, “I watched the movie over and over again and read the book, and I decided to do my own take on her character. I chose to simplify myself for her, my main priority was to be with Westley and for him to take care of me and protect me. But at the same time I wanted to be this strong young female character,” she said. “I’d literally write on my script ‘you are strong, you are independent, you are young’ and I’d talk myself through it.”
The most difficult part of the play for Pokotylo was the accent. However, spending time and practicing with Lee helped her improve.
Pokotylo said she and Spencer had an easy chemistry. “It was really natural and comfortable with Spencer because he’s so professional and friendly. We got along really well and spent a lot of time together rehearsing and practicing our accents.”