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Ft. Thomas Teen Takes to Stage with Story About Teenager Antics

Among the things Highlands High School senior Ellie Conniff learned about herself this year? “I took a directing class and discovered I have a knack for comedy. Which surprised me – I’m an angsty teen.”

And she “realized how important comedy is.”

So for her playwriting lab, she wrote a comedy, inspired by Joshua Ferris’s novel And Then We Came to the End. “It satirized the modern workplace and how people spend most of their lives at work and I thought, we spend most of our lives at school, which is kind of the same thing.”

Now Here’s Hoping There’s a Radioactive Spider in Your Future will be in Cincinnati Fringe as part of Fringe Next, created to bring high school artists into Fringe.

Spiders is one of four shows by high school students who produce, write, direct, and act in their own original work. They call their production company Digital Middleground Productions, which describes itself as “a team of young artists based at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Our mission is to create theatre that is at once truthful and comedic, insightful and absurd, as well as to give a voice to high school students and theatre artists. These are our stories and our collective self-expression.”

Conniff co-directs with Brenna Payne (“She’s a fantastic director.”). The acting ensemble is Payton Epperson, Kaiya Linkugel, Anna Jowaisas, Savannah Slaby, and Grant Sower. Jowaisas also created the artwork for Spiders.

The title, Conniff says, “has nothing to do with the script, I didn’t have a title and The Force Awakens had just come out.”

Spiders is “teenage antics” during a week in the life of five characters. Conniff says, “We swear a lot, make fun of each other a lot, there are video games and calculus homework and lightsaber fights”, all part of a more serious journey to the ‘what’s next?’ in their lives – including finding out if you qualify for financial aid in college.

“Figuring out who you are before you have to know who you are.”

Creating an original show for Fringe Next project has been a lot of fun, Conniff says, and, in the beginning, scary.

“I was scared it wasn’t perfect and the actors wouldn’t trust me but they’ve been really supportive. There have been a lot of read-throughs and the cast has helped with how it will end and tying up loose ends.

“The characters were ideas in my brain and now they’re fleshed out by real people. It’s an awesome experience.”

Something else she’s learned: “I’ve definitely learned theatre is a process. Everything is a process.”

What’s next for Conniff? She’ll begin classes at Xavier University in the fall as a theater major, hoping for special emphasis on writing and directing, “Which is the way I want to go.”

Here’s Hoping There’s a Radioactive Spider in Your Future, Graydon Head, 1421 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. 6:15 p.m. June 2, 3:15 p.m. June 4, 6:30 p.m. June 7, 9 p.m. June 9 and 2:30 p.m. June 11. Tickets $15,, and 513-300-5669.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
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