Bonita Production of ‘The Girl in the Mirror’ Reflects Talented Cast and Crew

May 15, 2010
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Ariana Harris, as Susan Connors, wrestles with her inner voice, The Speaker, portrayed by Julianne O' Brien.

Ariana Harris, as Susan Connors, wrestles with her inner voice, portrayed by Julianne O' Brien.

By Peter Bennett

On a Friday night, I spent the night in a hospital contemplating suicide.

I was watching the Bonita High School production of “The Girl in the Mirror” by Bruce Jacoby, a play whose setting is an intensive care unit where a teenage girl lies comatose after overdosing on sleeping pills.

The subject of teen suicide isn’t your typical Friday night fare. It was an intense and uncomfortable topic that the student actors wanted to tackle, said Skip Clague, Bonita’s longtime drama coach.

“There was no question they could handle it,” Clague said moments after the Friday night performance inside Bonita’s student union. “Actually, they chose to do it.”

Clague even brought in a psychologist, Rubie Carriedo, to help sensitize and increase the cast’s knowledge and awareness of the issues of suicide and its prevention. In fact, a full page inside the program was devoted to helping audience members recognize when young people might be at risk and listed several community resources and hotlines where teens in crisis can seek help.

Throughout the play, different spokespeople (Amanda Werner, Eric Mahood,, Olga Quiroz, Gabby Atchley, Rachel Strobridge and Felicia Quesada) share a number of suicide’s sobering and startling statistics. Women, we learned, attempt suicide about three times more often than men, but that men are far more successfully at completing the act. The most popular suicide method of choice for both men and women is firearms.


Among the many things the audience discovers about comatose victim, Susan Connors, is she is a huge fan of Slyvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, a novel about a gifted young woman’s mental breakdown, a descent that mirrors Plath’s own life course. Plath published it only weeks before she killed herself.

Susan, our troubled girl in the mirror played by student Ariana Harris, is the daughter of divorced parents — an emotionally unavailable father (Marc Armanious) and an alcoholic mother (Hayley Porter). They may all live in the same home, but they are all leading separate lives. In a tribute to the acting talents of Harris, Armanioius and Porter, the trio effectively pulled the audience in close to their dysfunctional lives, and made everyone feel the pain of their unhappy home.

Susan is not completely abandoned. She has a dark angel, played wonderfully by Julianne O’ Brien and a dedicated doctor, portrayed perfectly by Megan Shuster, who inform her in no uncertain terms that “whether she lives or dies is largely a matter of her own will.”

After a rocky and confrontational start, Susan’s English teacher’s Jean Douglas (Lisa Eliot) is also there for her. In Susan’s poetry, the teacher sees a vulnerable girl reaching out for help. In one of the play’s few light moments, she just wishes Susan would express her angst in rhyming couplets.

More complicated is Susan’s relationship with her classmate Samantha (Chelsea Pescador). They’re best friends until a boy, Bryan Sellers (Naveen Reddy) comes between them. The adolescent love between the brainy but fragile Susan and the tender-hearted jock throws off a lot of sparks, but these embers eventually burn out, as well. But while they last, the audience enjoys the lighter-than-air feeling that their innocent love brings.

But Susan’s demons are bigger than even the wings of love. They have her flat on her back in her hospital bed, attached to life-saving equipment, when all that was really needed to save her were a few people a little more willing to stop and listen to a confused teen in trouble.

The night wasn’t exactly a bundle of laughs, but sometimes we all need to take a closer look in the mirror and see how we can better help our fellow human beings. Kudos to the cast, crew, Skip Clague and assistant Shannon Shark for bringing that simple truth home. 

The full cast included:

Ariana Harris (Susan Connors) – starring her seventh play

Julianne O’ Brien (Speaker) – president of the Drama Club, who will attend DePauw Universit in Greencastle, Ind., this fall.

Haley Porter (Mother) – starring in her second play, and Haley even cut her hair to get into the role.

Megan Shuster (Doctor) – a junior and treasurer of the Drama Club appearing in her second play.

Melissa Mahler (Nurse) – appearing in her first play, she also enjoys working with the set crew.

Marc Armanious (Father) – appearing in his fourth play, despite working with a broken nose.

Lisa Elliot (Teacher) – appearing in her fourth play and expects to perform in many more because of her love of acting.

Chelsea Pescador (Samantha) – drawing the curtain on her Bonita acting career, Chelsea will enroll at Cal State Fullerton in the fall.

Naveen Reddy (Bryan Sellers) – new to acting, Naveen will attend UCLA this fall.

Aaron Calloway (Friend) – a man of many talents, which now includes acting.

Delaram Kamalpour (Mrs. Hale) – also UCLA bound after making her Bonita acting debut.

Olivia Barlett (Dr. Barlett) – normally appearing behind the scenes as stage manager, she is on her way to Azusa Pacific this fall.

John Pride (Dr. Richards) – when not acting, the senior is hiking, reading, playing video games and planning to attend Citrus College this fall.

Amanda Werner (Person 1) – a house crew veteran who usually shines the spotlight on others.

Erick Mahood (Person 2) – Humboldt bound, Erick can now can cross acting off his list of Bonita accomplishments.

Olga Quiroz (Person 3) –a veteran of four plays, but “The Girl in the Mirror” was her first time acting on stage.

Gabby Atchley (Person 4) – this was her first bow in a major high school production.

Rachel Strowbridge (Person 5) – a junior experiencing her first taste of the thespian world.

Felicia Quesada (Person 6) – another dramatist who decided it was time to show her on-stage talents after three earlier productions behind the curtain.

The Crews:

Stage Managers: Joseph Johnson, Molly Kawamoto, Andrew Walker

Set Crew: Matthew Cline, Melissa Mahler, Mallory Hensley, Keri Lusk, Kate Campanella

Lights: Chris Santomaro, Sonora Hernandez, Angel Villanueva, Jarred Barnard, Meaghan Henderson

Props: Elle Mabrouk

Costumes: Samantha Totman, Jenna Elder, Lauren Gonzalez, Cassie Motte

Make-Up: Katelyn Spiro, Keri Lusk

Sound: Maisy Wilson, Ashlee Phelps, Diana Wallace

Publicity: Taylor Wong, Kennedy Valenzuela, Richie Orozco, Andrew Walker

Ticket Managers: Marlene, Katie Lizarraga

House Managers: Royce Garner, Colin Woo

Reported May 14, 2010


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