PIEDMONT -- Piedmont High School offers a laugh-filled trip back to the 1950s with its production of Ken Ludwig's hilarious farce "Leading Ladies" through Sunday.

"After the heaviness of our fall production 'August: Osage County,' it was time to lighten the mood around the theater," said director Kim Taylor. According to Taylor, this production with plenty of slapstick, dancing, fencing and even roller-skating, certainly does the trick.

Set in 1950s Pennsylvania, "Leading Ladies" follows two touring Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable, who find their careers in a rut. When dying heiress Florence Snyder begins searching for her long-lost relatives, the actors scheme to impersonate them and inherit her large fortune. The trouble begins when they realize that the relations are two nieces. Undaunted by the gender change, the Shakespearean actors continue the charade.

"I've had to wear wigs on stage before, but I've never done anything quite like this," said high school senior Billy Ireland, who plays Leo Clark. "I now have a real appreciation for women who can wear high heels. Walking in those things is a real challenge."

Also challenging, Ireland said, was learning a British accent and then having to use it as Leo and as Leo's impersonation of long-lost niece Maxine.

"It was a bit tricky changing pitch back and forth as I switched from Leo to Maxine," Ireland said.

Despite the challenges, Ireland enjoys learning the art of farce in Ludwig's action-packed comedy.


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"Last year, I was in Deborah Zoe Laufer's 'End Days,' a very dark comedy," he explained. "Going to farce this year allows me to stretch as an actor. When I first read this play, I was laughing out loud and just knew I had to be in it."

Taylor has double cast the show with each cast doing two of the four performances.

"It's always a challenge finding the time to rehearse two separate casts," Taylor said. "But I have great stage managers and very talented, clever actors to work with. My biggest problem is when I come up with a great idea for one cast, I have to find another one for the other."

Taylor said that each cast interprets the play slightly differently.

"The blocking and especially the dances and sword fights are different in each production, and one character is so different it's like night and day," she explained. "It's really a collaborative process, so each cast brings its own ideas to the show. In fact, I'd love it if audiences came to see both casts. I think they'd have a slightly different, yet totally enjoyable, experience each time."

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Tickets for "Leading Ladies" are $8 for students and $12 for adults. Shows are at the Alan Harvey Theater at Piedmont High School through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door. For more information, go to www.piedmontportal.org.