Arts & Entertainment

F.C. Students Punt on Fluff & Tackle Substance in Professional Play

TAKING THEIR TALENTS TO THE BIG STAGE are George C. Marshall’s Rachel Lipetz (left) and Justice High School’s Naomi Bertha. Lipetz landed a role as one of the nine main actors in NextStop Theatre’s iteration of “The Wolves,” which is about a high school indoor soccer team. (Photo: Courtesy Lock and Company)

Two Falls Church students portray the complicated and surprisingly adult lives of modern high schoolers in their professional debuts for NextStop Theatre’s rendition of “The Wolves.”

Rachel Lipetz, 17, a junior at George C. Marshall High School, and Naomi Bertha, 18, a senior at Justice High School, outcompeted students from across the region to earn one of the nine main parts and three understudy roles. The play is well-suited for its young cast members, with the story centered around the conversations nine high school girls on an indoor soccer team share during their weekly pregame warm-ups.

Lipetz, who plays one of the main parts, described the six-show performance on weekends as “really fun but definitely at the end of the day you’re exhausted. It’s a good kind of tired though. I can go home and relax.”

Acting in high school plays over several years has taught Lipetz to balance her time, but she believes working NextStop is a little heavier because of the evening rehearsals. After school, she gets to work right away on school assignments.

Bertha carries her homework wherever she goes to get in as many extra minutes to study that she finds, including during rehearsals when she’s not on call. She is an understudy but will star in this Thursday’s performance as player #46. (The cast has no names; just numbers. For example, Lipetz is player #08.)

As backup, Bertha has had to learn three scripts, make time for costume changes and, for each part, review and learn “blocking” (movements during speaking, checking for lights and visibility).

Most of the auditioners for “The Wolves” were trying out for their first professional debuts, but Bertha acted last year in “Lord of the Flies” at Synetic Theater in Crystal City.

Both she and Lipetz began their acting careers long before high school.

Lipetz first started acting in the seventh grade when she tried out for the musical, “Legally Blonde Junior.” At the urging of her piano teacher she’s had since age six, Lipetz began voice lessons, and her confidence grew.

“Music is what got me into theatre in the first place,” Lipetz said in an interview after a show. “I realized I didn’t just enjoy the musical part of theatre, I enjoyed the acting part of it.”

She’ll be using her talents to audition for Marshall’s production of “The Sound of Music” this week, which is slated to premiere April 25.

Bertha’s loved acting ever since she began acting in elementary school. The best she can recall, she was about seven when she and her younger sister put on plays for their parents and then a little later, acted at libraries and community centers, including one show in Yorktown, Va. where they lived and acted in a play with their dad. (He is in the Air Force and Bertha remembers most of her early years growing up were spent in Norway.)

“I realized then this was something I could do and that it was something I really enjoyed doing,” Bertha said, reflecting on how great the Yorktown play experience was.

BERTHA, on the other hand, is one of three understudies, but will be under the lights for tonight’s performance. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

She’s been in every play performed at Justice since she started ninth grade, including a new one staging March 21 – 23, “The Women” by Clare Booth Luce.

“I play Sylvia [in “The Women”], and I am real excited about that,” Bertha said in an interview at Justice where she’s rehearsing on some of the same days she prepares for her “The Wolves’” part.

Audiences react differently to shows. One night, the reception was more reserved than another night when wild enthusiasm and loud applause greeted the actors at the end of the performance.

“Something my last director taught me is ‘every audience is a good audience, but every audience is different.’” Lipetz said. “It’s definitely something to get used to. Some lines get laughs some nights and sometimes they don’t.”

Lipetz beamed while noting the Herndon show was one of the best experiences of her young life, though she also knows it will be hard to let it go after this weekend’s final run.

“Yes, it’s sad when it ends [the run],” Lipetz continued. “There’s a phrase, ‘post-show depression.’ Most actors get it, feeling sad when the experience is over. You miss it. There are always mixed feelings.”

Lipetz plans to fill her free time with homework and piano practice, which she neglected a little during the show’s run.

“The Wolves” was written by Sarah DeLappe. As far as NextStop’s director Kathryn Chase Bryer knows, Herndon’s production is the first in the nation to use only teenage actors for team members.

Tickets for “The Wolves” start at $35, and prices for high demand shows are $50. Show times are Thursday – Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

NextStop Theatre is located at 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon. Tickets are available by calling 866-811-4111 or at