West End Theatre Group to Present Original Student Play ‘Under the Hood’

by Rebecca Rhodin

Fairy tales are intriguing to Ryland X. Beck — especially the way so many versions exist of each old story.

His own family, of German background, shared some darker versions of the tales with him, while dancing around the truly gruesome plot lines, says the second-year student at Montgomery County Community College.

“I’m fascinated by how many variations there are of one story, with different endings and different details added and taken away, and how much a story changes through word of mouth,” explains Beck, 21, of Green Lane.

It has inspired him to write his own fairy-tale-based play “Under the Hood,” which will be staged on May 11 at noon and again at 1:30 p.m. by the College’s West End Theatre Group in the open-air theater at Riverfront Park, 140 College Drive, Pottstown.

The same way the Grimm Brothers collected and presented stories from ages past, Beck has taken bits and pieces of yarns, ideas and characters and pulled them into one script.

And he is building “the next generation” of fairy tale by combining story lines and adding modern details like cars and phones.

Some of the main characters of “Under the Hood” are a female auto mechanic named Robin, her boyfriend who happens to be a pig, and a wolfish lawyer named Lycan. The story weaves in threads of recent events, with the wolf plotting with a bank to take away people’s houses.

Beck worked with Montgomery County Community College Theatre Arts Coordinator Michael Whistler to tweak the play in the aftermath of its successful first reading during the College’s 12th annual Lasagna Dinner at the West Campus in February.

“It was a great experience because it helped me see what wasn’t quite clear yet, and how someone else might see it,” says Beck of the reading. “I’ve been editing it for four months now – it’s slow and grueling, but I’ve gained a lot of respect for playwrights!”

On the other hand, the auditions were fun. Some prospects brought a lot of energy to the tryouts, and Beck got to see his written words transformed into living, breathing characters.

The roles have been cast and the sets for the play will be limited because of the outdoor staging, he says.

“I hope I have a good turnout,” Beck muses. “At the reading, I was nervous before it started. It turned out better than I expected.”

Even though “Under the Hood” is the second play he has penned, the first being a project for high school English, theater is not his ambition. He plans to major in occupational therapy and hopes to eventually earn a doctorate in that discipline.

In fact, the idea for “Under the Hood” came to Beck while he was supposed to be studying for a history final. His original aim in writing it was to save money for the West Campus drama club by coming up with a play for which they wouldn’t have to pay rights.

“The only connection theater and OT have is they are both great interests of mine,” he says.

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