A Ghoulishly School Affair: Behind the scenes at La Costa Canyon High School’s production of The Addams Family

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Cast members from LCC’s production of The Addams Family.
Grace Miller
Rocco Polanco
Rocco Polanco, student director and actor who portrays Gomez Addams. Grace Miller

In his final performance as a graduating senior at La Costa Canyon (LCC) High School, Rocco Polanco is taking on a dual role stepping into both familiar and new territories. Rounding out his long-standing youth stage career, Polanco reinvents his Tri City CYT Best Actor performance as the debonair Gomez Addams, and takes on the role of director.

“Immersing myself completely into a character has always been intriguing, but directing is a catalyst for an entirely different level of creative vision,” says Polanco, who plans to attend Emerson College in the fall to pursue a BFA in Comedic Arts. Emerson College is a communications, arts and entertainment powerhouse with a one-of-a-kind program that encompasses stage, screen and print comedy at campuses in Boston and Los Angeles.

“The experiences as an actor and director complement one another. I understand the fundamentals of being on stage; the organic character preparation, rehearsals and uninhibited imagination are familiar yet present new opportunities with each production. This training is creative fuel, enhancing my ability to see through the director’s lens in a unique way and providing a base to add creative influences, nuances and script interpretations. Directing really challenges how I process things visually and even physically from the audience perspective.”

The 38 -member cast has a grueling schedule rehearsing Monday through Saturday for five-to-six hours nightly learning lines and intricate dance scenes. But behind the scenes is an entirely separate production: a small army of unusual participants creating an immersive backdrop that will showcase the performers of this dark but family-friendly musical comedy.

Based on the 1964 television series, an elaborate, original Victorian mansion has been created by set designer Fernando Robles and set designer/builder Matt Gherna. The ghoulish atmosphere is the perfect foil for the bazaar and eccentric aristocratic family. It is complete, with a one-of-a-kind illuminated “moon box” for the iconic scenes with Uncle Fester. The cast, crew and a diverse contingency of LCC students from sports to wood shop are assisting with the set build. The effort is massive, and requires that components be built both on and off campus.

Exquisite, edgy and sophisticated stage costumes have been custom-designed by costume designer Josseline Tanus and costumer Julie Berry. Their creations are both lyrical and fantastical, visually enhancing each character’s personality with individually-selected fabrics that truly represent the genre and help bring the dark yet whimsical script to life. The intricate designs are true works of art, color schemed by family clan, and inspired by Victorian and art-deco fashion.

“There is a visual change that is tangible when the actors are in costume,” says Brad Golden, LCC Theatre director.

“The detailed designs are transformative. It is truly astonishing and one that will draw the audience in from the first moment of the opening scene.”

Makeup artists Matthew Gherna and Judy Goldsworthy team up to bring new twists to The Addams Family cast with original hand-made prosthetics. The impact is exaggerated, over-the-top visuals that range from to the extremely bland Beineke family to the cartoonish Addams’ family members, relatives and ancestors.

The LCC Music Department is in on the act, as well, contributing the use of their new grand piano and its resident ghost to play tunes from the musical outside the theater before the show and during intermission. LCC music students used The Addams Family score to program the piano to play songs with its mysterious invisible pianist.

New to the production crew is the La Costa Canyon robotics team, the MavBots. Capitalizing on the importance of user experience (UX), they have created themed and animated cast portraits that will greet guests as part of the lobby décor. Each image is motorized and programmed to change in their frames, adding a spooky touch to the atmosphere.

The cast also includes members of the LCC Maverick dance team, who provide additional ambience to the production’s intricate dance numbers, performing as ethereal “ancestors.” Senior Alison McKenery, captain of the dance team, assists with choreography and adjusting dance scenes. — News release

The Addams Family

Show Dates:

April 17 -20, April 24 – 27

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: La Costa Canyon High School’s David H. Thompson Theatre

1 Maverick Way, Carlsbad, CA 90029

Free parking