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RNE News

The Saber

RNE News

The Saber

Lightning never strikes twice

Mason Anderson gets his first and last lead role in a PCA musical.
Mason Anderson sits on the RNE auditorium stage only a few days Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief has ended. Anderson played Percy in the PCA musical.

Mason Anderson has always had bad luck. 

“Basically, bad luck and near death experiences,” Anderson said with a laugh, comparing himself to his dream role. 

Although, there are some ironic differences between Anderson and the water-powered demigod.

 “Funnily enough, I can’t swim,” he said.

Anderson performed in the title role in PCA’s spring musical “Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief” this past weekend. He has been in theater since his freshman year.

The sophomore is used to working behind the scenes with technical theater, but being on stage is relatively new to him.

“I actually got dared into doing theater. I was originally only doing technical theater when Little Shop of Horrors happened (a year ago), but I was dared into doing the musical,” Anderson said.

He may have auditioned because of a dare, but he landed Orin Scrivello, the villain of the musical, as his first ever part in a theater production. And ever since then Anderson never stopped trying out. He also acted in PCA’s fall play.

“I don’t know how, but he picked it up so fast and it was incredible to see,” Jayden Gaskins, a close friend of Anderson and fellow cast member, said. 

Last year, Anderson found out that he would be moving to North Carolina after he had finished his sophomore year. Having to move was not unsual for him, being apart of a military family, but it was still disappointing for Anderson.

His friends have expressed their disappointment about his departure.

“He’s just an amazing character and an amazing person. I hope he continues theater. I hope he continues being who he is when he moves,“ Gaskins said.

He knew this would be his last show at RNE.

“I knew I was moving before they even announced the musical,” he said.

After finding out he would only have one more year at RNE, Anderson soon learned what the three options for the next spring musical were. But one option in particular stuck out to him. Not only was it his favorite musical of all time, but he was absolutely certain it would be their spring musical. 

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief. 

He immediately knew he would go for Percy.

“It is… above all my dream roles, that was number one. It was the first musical I ever listened to.” Anderson said. 

Throughout the audition process for Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, many people cheered Anderson on. In fact, he was getting called Percy more than his own name. When asked about this he stated, “I thought it was really fun and kind of funny, but I was also kind of scared about it because I felt like it would jinx it and I wouldn’t get Percy. Or that Ms. CC (the director of the musical) would hear people calling me Percy and be like ‘Oh, guess we can’t give it to him.’ or something like that.” 

Anderson thought he was the best fit for the character and was adamant on doing his best to try and get the role. He listened to the musical’s soundtrack so often that Chris McCarrell, who played Percy Jackson, was placed at number four on his Spotify wrapped.

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief ran on Broadway in 2019 for 16 weeks. This musical features Percy Jackson, a troubled teenager with ADHD and dyslexia. He has just discovered that he is a demigod. As a son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and one of the “big three”, Percy was forbidden to be born, as he is too powerful. He is accused of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt, and is sent on a quest to retrieve it and prove his innocence, battling monsters along the way. The musical is based on the book of the same name, written by Rick Riordan. 

“I think as a person I’m quite like the character. By the time I was two I had almost drowned three times. When I was five I pulled the fire alarm at my school… three times in one year.” According to Anderson the first two times were an accident… but the final pull was a dare. “I also ate a lightbulb, if that says anything? I’m also hyperactive and neurodivergent, so…” 

“He is very caring towards his friends. No matter what, he will try his best to take care of people. Percy is like that, with Luke and Annabeth specifically. He has so many different sides of him that make him, him, like Percy,” Gaskins said. 

Anderson had many hiccups throughout what should have been a relatively normal process. For the auditions, which took place back in October, Anderson’s voice ranged from high baritone-low baritone. Before Thanksgiving break he got sick, which in turn affected his voice.

“How I test if I’m sick is if I can do a Mickey Mouse impression. Because it’s so high up and it uses your head voice,” he said. When Anderson finds himself sick, it is harder to do the impression. By the time he got back from Thanksgiving break, it was not sickness that hindered his ability to imitate Mickey Mouse, it was that his voice range had simply dropped.  

Anderson’s range changed from high baritone-low baritone to low baritone-high bass. This caused him to go to callbacks with a voice that differed from the one he auditioned with. The music even had to be lowered to fit his voice, which Anderson felt incredibly bad about. 

When auditioning for different roles Anderson likes to use certain voices for each character he plays. During callbacks he used what he described as a “weird, nerdy, geeky voice,” for Percy simply because he thought it was funny. It turns out that is exactly what the director, Indira Cureton-Cummings otherwise known as Ms. CC,  thought was best for the role. Anderson thought the voice he used for Percy is what eventually helped his voice even out, making his range a low bass-low tenor. 

“In all, auditions and callbacks were very nerve-wracking. I needed to realize that the process of those weren’t built for me. It was built for people who actually have the time and motivation to do it and on top of that, the talent to be able to do it in real time,” he said. 

His practice was singing the song over and over again until he felt he got it right. He did not practice acting, nor did he practice dancing.  “It was just heading into it basically blind.” 

On Dec. 3 the cast list finally came out. Anderson got a text from a fellow cast member congratulating him on the role, taking Anderson by complete surprise. 

“I was like, ‘The cast list came out!?’ I forgot the cast list came out that day because I had been worrying so much. And I went and checked and I got Percy! And I was like ‘Oh my God!’ and I was so happy. And then I talked to everyone else about it. It was great.”

 After acting for only a little over a year, Anderson had gotten his first lead role. When asked how he managed to pull it off, he simply said, “Luck?”

“Mason is an amazing actor. Just in general he is an amazing actor, but for this being his third show? That is incredible,” Gaskins said.

Marlie Sisk, a friend of Anderson’s, was not at all surprised. She remembered telling Anderson, “I’m so happy for you! I knew you would get it!”

For Anderson it was a somewhat bittersweet process. He landed his dream role in one of his favorite musicals. But that same dream role also happened to be his last ever role performed at RNE. 

Anderson, who deeply connects to the songs and the music he listens to, could feel the terrible irony in some of the lines he sang. 

During the song “Son of Poseidon,” Percy sings, “I’m the son of Poseidon, I’m going to win…” 

“This is my last show. I won. I’m going to win,” Anderson said.

The cast of Percy Jackson: The Lighting Thief rehearsed for a month and a half and performed from March 13 to March 16. On closing night there was even a celebratory snack bar with blue food.  For a total of four days the show went on in RNE’s auditorium. Concluding with 29 metal prop swords being broken throughout the shows and rehearsals (22 of which were broken by Anderson), toilet paper and leaf blowers being used every night of the show, many fights with monsters, singing and dancing, wigs flying away, and a centaur flamboyantly galloping across the stage.

March 16, the closing night of Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, was an especially emotional night. 

“Knowing this would be my last show with Mason for at least the next two years was kind of… terrible. But it was really fun. We made it as silly as possible. And we enjoyed every moment of it,” Gaskins stated.

In the song “Last Day of Summer,” Percy said, “It’s the last day of summer and I don’t feel like anything is finished.” 

“My theater career isn’t finished, yet I still have to leave,” Anderson said. 

As the lights went out, and the curtain drew, only one person remained on stage. With a final salute to the crowd, Anderson bowed.

Mason Anderson looks out one of the auditorium exits.
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