For six of the next 10 days, Ryan senior Corbin Forest will step on a stage — not a metaphorical sports stage but one he painted black.
Forest will trade his shoulder pads for a full leather ensemble and play an abusive boyfriend instead of his familiar linebacker role.
Forest, Matt Griffin, B.J. Floyd and Desmond Oliver are football players who will take part in Ryan’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. The musical begins today at 7 p.m. and will be performed Friday, Saturday and Jan. 24-26.
Since Forest plays one of the main roles, he’ll have to sing in front of a large group of people.
“Luckily the lights are kind of blinding, so I can’t see them looking at me,” Forest said. “But it’s a completely different stage than football. In football, you have a helmet on; it’s familiar territory.”
Last year, Forest was in the school’s production of Hairspray. He said he was coaxed into going to tryouts for the lead role but missed auditions because of football practice, so he settled for a role as a backup dancer.
Forest followed the mold set by his sister, Meghan, who also acted for Ryan theater teacher Jeannene Abney, who has taught at Ryan for 21 years.
Current Detroit Tigers center fielder and Ryan alumnus Austin Jackson took classes under Abney. So did former pro football players Jarvis Moss and Derek Lokey, setting a trend of athletes getting involved in Ryan’s theater program, but those three never were in any plays, Abney said.
Abney said Forest, Floyd, Griffin and Oliver have great personalities and fully comprehend what teamwork is about.
“A director is really a coach,” Abney said. “You’re trying to pull those things out in your rehearsals, trying to get them better. You’re preparing for the end result. And every character you play fights to win.”
Forest is the most involved in the play. He also helped with the props and ran cable in the Ryan auditorium. Oliver has taken theater all four years of high school, but Griffin and Forest said Oliver and Floyd had to be talked into joining the play.
Floyd, a defensive back, was at a function for the play and Abney joked about Floyd joining the show. That’s how he ended up joining Oliver, a defensive lineman, as raggedy men who will be interacting with the audience during the play, walking down the aisles, Griffin and Forest said.
Griffin, a towering offensive lineman, will join Ryan student Javoris Jones in holding up a plant, an element that’s vital to the story.
“I just figured, senior year, expand your horizons and do something different,” Griffin said. “Have some fun while you still can. All these kids are really great. They’re really good guys and girls.”
Even the players’ head coach has some acting experience. Ryan football coach Joey Florence played a coach in the school’s production of Footloose a few years ago. He said his biggest lesson on the stage was learning when to say his lines. He quickly learned he had to learn the lines leading up to his as well.
Florence said one of the things that he thinks makes Ryan special is the way students delve into other activities.
“We all enjoy our kids being around [Abney], and she’s a big supporter of us, and I’m a bigger supporter of her,” Florence said. “The only thing that bothers me about Jeannene, and you can put this in the paper, is that I have not been invited back.”
Abney said she was aware of Florence’s displeasure with being absent from the stage and she let out a great laugh.
As for the students who’ll be performing tonight, Griffin and Forest said being a part of the play has introduced them to a lot of different people they enjoy being around.
“We’re the same, basically,” Forest said of theater students and football players. “We just happen to get hit.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .