Davenport Central Students Star in Online Production of “Clue”
It’s been a long process, but this Friday, theater students from Davenport Central High School will present a filmed version of Clue: High
School Edition. The play will be shown for free on the Broadway on Demand streaming platform, at 7 p.m., Feb. 26.
Clue: High School Edition is based on the 1985 Paramount mystery/comedy Clue, which in turn was inspired by the classic Hasbro board game of the same name.
The tale begins at a remote mansion – here filmed at Davenport’s Renwick Mansion — where six mysterious guests assemble for a dinner party where murder and blackmail are on the menu. When Mr. Boddy, their host, turns up dead, they all become suspects. Led by Wadsworth the butler, the guests – Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard – race to find the killer as the body count stacks up.
Central’s drama director, Thea IntVeld, has been teaching at the high school for 12 years. Another teacher had suggested Clue to her two years ago, and in early 2020, IntVeld had planned to stage the script as a play, but the pandemic presented obstacles to that plan. She then decided to produce it as a video and reach an even wider audience.
“Our students actually performed the play as a movie,” IntVeld said this week. “We pre-recorded so it will look so much better than a live production. And the best part about this show? In the new format, it wouldn’t have to be staged at the high school. Instead, the students performed inside a gorgeous, real-life mansion.”
Clue: High School Edition was shot at the 1877 Renwick Mansion, at 901 Tremont Avenue, Davenport. The mansion is an example of Italian Revival Villa architecture, complete with a limestone exterior and a four-story tower that overlooks the Mississippi River.
“Many rooms have fireplaces and four-poster beds,” said IntVeld. “We never could have built a huge, lavish set like that at the high school.” Once part of St. Katherine’s School, the Renwick Mansion now serves as a location for weddings, receptions, reunions and other social events.
“Because we put so much work into the production,” IntVeld said, “we didn’t want to experience any possible setbacks for health reasons. So the production has a second cast and a second director. All of the major parts have understudies.”
“We are looking forward to another great production on Friday night,” said Jon Flynn, principal of Central High School. “This is different from anything we have staged in the past, and our cast, crew, and directors have been working hard. Our students are excited about Clue, and I hope Blue Devils everywhere take advantage of this unique viewing opportunity.”
Starting with rehearsals in the fall, IntVeld’s cast and crew had to deal with Covid, virtual practices, snow and the Renwick’s schedule, delaying things. They originally planned to release the filmed version in December.
They recorded over three days in January and one more this past Monday night.
No understudies (who had to learn all their part’s lines and blocking) had to go on for filming, which IntVeld was thankful for.
“My assistant director (Jo Vasquez) helped me a lot, since it was a lot of work to record this thing,” she said.
“Working around quarantine times, the weather, the mansion’s very booked schedule, and all the kids’ extracurriculars, I cannot believe I made it. I really don’t,” IntVeld said.
The video editor from Mickle Communications, Owen Hoke, worked to put together the finished product for free.
“He knows it so well that he knew when they were messing up; he’d say their lines,” she said. “I told them, guys, your audience knows this show, so you can’t mess up your lines. That was the eye-opener for them.”
The Renwick owners did not charge the school and the show will be aired free for anyone to watch.
“It’s our way of saying, let’s just bring back the arts without trying to make a buck off of it,” IntVeld said.
The students loved working at Renwick, but by the late last night (filming until 11 p.m.) they were ready to be done, she said. “This has been the longest play ever. I know that they walked out going, this was super cool.”
“We were incredibly excited to have the Central High School students use the mansion for their production of ‘Clue’,” Renwick owners Sarah and Dane Moulton said by e-mail Tuesday.
“There were a lot of schedule changes due to the ever changing government mandates due to coronavirus, however we were able to make it happen,” they said. “These kids have missed out on a lot this past year so we’re glad that the theater production did not have to be cancelled, and we are so impressed with Thea and the theater group for their adaptability.
“We’ve always wanted to write a Clue Murder Mystery game specifically for the mansion, so it’s really cool that they thought to use it for their production, and we cannot wait to see the final product on Friday,” the Moultons said.
“They are very proud of what they did, because it isn’t something they’ve ever done,” IntVeld said of the Central students. “They’re really excited to show everybody.”
The bummer of being virtual is, they don’t get that feedback of “Did they do a good job?” she said. “They can’t see the audience; they can only watch themselves and be part of the experience. That’s the thing – as much as they loved the experience of film, they feed off of an audience, and they lacked that.
“Some of the energy, some of the scenes, it would better if there was someone there to laugh,” IntVeld said. “There’s no one there to laugh.”
“Jo and I reinforced over and over again, this isn’t a play – this is a film,” she said. “With film, you can see it over and over.”
Students were thrilled with field trip
Students involved in “Clue” were thrilled with the extended field trip, to work remotely but still in person. They spoke to QuadCities.com in mid-November.
“It’s definitely really special with corona and everything,” said Sara Holtam, a senior and crew manager. “A lot of things are shut down; it’s
definitely bringing a new element and everything. It’s not just filming on a stage.”
“It definitely adds an authenticity to have it there,” said senior Giovanni Macias, who was tech crew manager and part of the filming. A spring-break internship he did with Fresh Films his sophomore year will help in this production, where he leaned about filming and video equipment.
“I already heard good things when I was calling shots — I was using terms the videographer didn’t learn until he was in college,” Macias said of working at Renwick. He’s also been part of the Creative Arts Academy since 8th grade.
Emilia Gonzales, a senior, plays Mrs. Peacock and adored being at the 1877 mansion, which is a popular venue for weddings, receptions, comedy shows and concerts.
“I am such a lover of old buildings, that type of architecture,” she said. “It’s really amazing to be there. My parents had their renewal vows there. I’m scheduled to have my graduation party there.”
“We were planning on having a big set,” Gonzales said of “Clue” at Central. “It’s weird going from having a huge set, not to have any set at all. It’s interesting, fun to see how we’re using the space and figuring everything out.
“It’s unusual to have an understudy for every part,” which is new, she added. “At any moment anyone could be gone. This is definitely the
most freshmen we’ve had in the show at the same time.”
“I’ve done so many shows in the past; it’s like nothing I’ve done before, doing it at the mansion,” Gonzales said. She’s the one who tested positive for Covid last fall, after her dad tested positive.
“It was a crazy two weeks, but it didn’t really affect my health in any way,” she said. “I had mostly cold symptoms; they just went away. I was pretty lucky. I currently can’t smell or taste anything, so that’s frustrating…Just to be absolutely sure, I keep far away from everybody, wear a mask at all times. We’ve been mostly virtual, to keep everybody safe.”
Freshman Morgan Ford was Emilia’s understudy, so got to rehearse when she was quarantining.
“I just had lot of fun being with the rest of the cast,” Morgan said. “It’s really cool being at the mansion. It’s really big; honestly, it’s super cool. I just love theater, I’ve always wanted to be in theater.”
“This is super different for Central or any school for that matter,” said senior Madeline Sottos, assistant student director for “Clue.” “It’s a new learning experience for everybody. From the director perspective, how we incorporate weird little quirks of the mansion into the show.
“It’s exciting to think of us doing it more like a movie,” she said. “That pressure is taken off. The cast doesn’t have to be in character the entire time – they only have to be in character when they’re on screen.”
“It’s cool, really fun,” said senior Asher Myer, who plays Mr. Green. “I feel like a real professional. Ms. IntVeld, it was really smart of her to do it this way. It’s been really fun to go around the mansion, feel like you’re in a mystery.”
He’s been to a couple weddings at Renwick, and since there’s not much furniture in the first-floor rooms, the students are more relaxed, he said. “The owners have been great, let us do whatever.”
IntVeld’s senior son, Hayden, is president of Central’s drama club and plays Wadsworth the butler.
“It’s a pretty unique one this year,” he said of “Clue,” noting he’s been in shows all four years, including last year’s “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” as Leaf Coneybear.
“If I had been in another high school that decided to give up and cancel, I’d be really bummed as a senior, but I’m so proud of my mom and my department for stepping it up,” Hayden said. “Trying to work with Covid, keeping everybody as safe as possible, while doing a real-life production. I’m very excited about the opportunity to do our show.”
“It is so incredible – that mansion is so beautiful,” he said of the Renwick. “To be able to do show, where you’re dining in an actual vintage, amazing dining room is so special. To go throughout the mansion, and run up and down the stairs, go through all the rooms, the giant chandeliers – it’s really incredible. It’s not like any of these high schools would be able to do otherwise.
“It’s something I think is really different, because all these high school level actors get to have a real film experience and a film crew,” Hayden said. “It’s definitely amazing to be able to do at the Renwick.”
“The Renwick Mansion owners are so nice to let us do it for free, and they’ve been so nice and welcoming,” he said.
It was challenging to first rehearse in masks, but Hayden said everyone has gotten used to them. “This is gonna be our lifestyle and have to move forward as a country,” he said. “It’s been weird to start, but we’re getting used to using our outside voices inside.”
IntVeld posted Tuesday on Facebook about her son:
“I’m so excited to watch Hayden this Friday as Wadsworth for our play ‘Clue.’ He’s worked so hard and is so funny. In his senior show, to watch my baby do something so special, really warms my heart.”
Some well-known directors, like Alfred Hitchcock, have been known to make cameo appearances in their films. Did IntVeld decide to follow in that tradition?
“I do make a cameo appearance in Clue,” she said, “but it’s an audio cameo. At one point, the maid can be heard screaming, but that scream is actually me.”
If you want to donate to Central’s theater program, and keep live entertainment in the area going, visit https://bluedevildrama.weebly.com/. If you donate at least $10, you will be entered into a drawing for raffle prizes. You can access the “Clue” video there as well.