Extinction Distinction: WHS Junior lands big Guthrie gig

January 26, 2011.By Caroline Rode, Trojan Tribune.

Hood up, eyes down, the young man hacks furiously at the strings of his cello. Many things are familiar; the young man is Dan Piering (11), the cello is his, and the setting is in the classroom of AP Biology teacher Leslie Swiggum. Everything else is theatre: in the mind of the viewer, it’s all real.

Piering will be performing in Song of Extinction with Theater Latté Da artistic director, Peter Rothstein, February 26th to March 20th at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio in Minneapolis.

After Piering participated in the musical “The Who’s Tommy” at the Children’s Theatre this summer, Rothstein gave him a script and told him that he should audition.

“When Rothstein mentioned that the show would be performed at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, I knew it wasn’t normal,” said Piering.

Piering explained the show is set in a high school. “My character’s name is Max Forrestal and he’s a musical prodigy,” said Piering.

Max is a teenager who is having difficulties at home. His mother is suffering with cancer. However, Max’s father is so busy with work that Max starts to fade into the background. Max, now having suicidal thoughts, has no one to turn to.

One person does notice him; his biology Mr. Phan is struggling with his own inner demons. The two form an unlikely alliance.

“Max is the only teenager in the show,” said Piering. Because there was only one role, the competition for the part was intense.

“First there were nine of us, then at callbacks, Peter had us read a monologue from the show. The last few were swear words. That made the auditions much more tense,” Piering.

“The rehearsal process is going to be intense,” said Piering. “I have to have all my lines memorized before we start practices next month. That’s different from productions at the high school, because we get our scripts during the first practice,” said Piering.

Being a part of a professional show is going to be time consuming for Piering, filling up his evenings for the next two months.

Piering filmed a promotional video for the show with Rothstein in December in Leslie Swigum’s AP Bio classroom.

The performance run itself is also much longer than Wayzata’s longest running show of two weekends. Piering will perform in a total of 18 shows.

“We’ll be practicing at a studio outside the Guthrie until the week of the first show, when we’ll move into the Dowling Studio,” said Piering.

Piering said that the show is appropriate for high school students, but it has strong content. He also mentioned that there are some swear words in it, “but there aren’t any words you haven’t heard in the high school before.”

“What makes this show unique is that it’s all about how Max, a normal teenage boy, is trying to cope with his mother’s cancer. We all have emotional struggles, so everyone can relate to the show,” Piering said.

“This is a very impactful show and it will leave you with something that you didn’t have before you saw it,” said Piering. For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, go to either latteda.org or guthrietheater.org.