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Jennings' latest tests Kingman students' acting skills

Aisha Subhan plays Gertie in “the Last Of The HAIRY MAMMALS,” a Kingman High production that takes the stage for a three-day run starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.

KHS presents 'the Last of the HAIRY MAMMALS'

Welcome to Happyville, a place where mammals are happy and secure unless Panguria, a large country filled with people planning to take over the world, is mentioned.

Everything is grand until the town's water pipes break one day, and the mammals can't get their coffee without using water from a wishing well that hasn't been used in 20 years. The mammals drink their wishing well coffee and the whole town goes mad.

A group of dinosaurs show up in Happyville - never mind that they've been extinct for 65 million years - and tell the mammals, who are now frightened and insecure, that they can make a better planet and defeat the Pangurians if everyone becomes a terrible lizard.

This is a taste of "the Last Of The HAIRY MAMMALS," a play written and directed by Kingman High teacher Tom Jennings and performed by KHS students. The story, an action-packed comedy, explores the way societies react to their fears and how they come up with solutions to alleviate their insecurities that are often disastrous, Jennings said.

"It's a layered play," Jennings said. "There's comedy and action, but there's also a serious line to it that's not really obvious."

Students have been rehearsing the play for more than two months, and unlike other productions, the whole cast is basically in every scene. Though it seems like a lot of work, cast members actually see rehearsal as the highlight of their day.

"His plays are well planned and entertaining," said Matt Jennings, a senior and the son of Tom Jennings. "It gives you something to look forward to."

This will be Matt Jennings' 10th play, if you count middle school, and he is cast as Delmar, a sarcastic but likable mammal.

The pros of doing a play that's been written by the director outweigh the cons, but it is still a tough task.

"If you mess up your lines, the writer is right there," said Jackson Hanks, who plays the story's narrator, Charm.

Hanks is the only senior who has been in every single one of Tom Jennings' plays. He would like to pursue a career in acting and credits Tom Jennings with much of his development.

When Hanks graduated from White Cliffs Middle School, he saw himself as a good actor. But he didn't get a part in the first high school play he auditioned for, and once he started getting parts they were supporting roles.

"It was strange," said Hanks, who regularly secured lead roles in middle school. "But it all worked out."

Tom Jennings taught him to better project his voice. It comes down to pace, volume and annunciation, Hanks said. Once he learned how to be heard, he also needed to learn how to be seen.

"He (Tom Jennings) is always pushing," Hanks said. "There's always something to improve."

Though he pushes students to get better, Matt Jennings said cast members never lose that sense that he appreciates their hard work, which makes it easier to lay it all on the line for him.

"He just cares," said Aisha Subhan, a senior who plays a grumpy mammal named Gertie.

Subhan believes Tom Jennings is an important part of his students' lives. The way he teaches and the way he directs helps motivate students, she said.

"You want to impress him," Hanks agreed.

"the Last Of The HAIRY MAMMALS" debuts at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Kingman High auditorium, with subsequent showings at the same time Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students.


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