In an effort to strike balance between female and male leads, Ballard High School Fall Play Director Lisa Ronca chose “Pink Panther Strikes Again” as this year’s fall show.

“Last year we did a drama that featured a lot of female leads. This year we wanted to do a comedy to feature some of our male leads,” she said.

Interestingly, Ballard put on this same play 16 years ago in 2002. “It was a great hit,” Ronca said.

In addition to having more male leads, “Pink Panther” offers a lot of parts for many characters, which is always a plus for a school that has lots of students auditioning.

The play has 52 roles, a few of which have been double-cast. There are also 23 tech crew workers, who are participating by painting, sewing, working with props, working as set crew, and doing lights and sound.

Ronca is joined by several others who make up the directing team. Shelly Gifford-Holly is the assistant director; Sam Upah is a volunteer director and Ally Watters is a student director.

“As the (lead) director, I let the other three (directors) know the needs of the rehearsals, and they are awesome and always willing to get things done,” Ronca said.

Also worth mentioning are some who go above and beyond to make this show happen, Ronca said. This includes student helpers, who have taken on several roles like painting, lights, sound, etc.; and the following people who have put in a lot of hours above and beyond practice times: Taylor Noe, with work on costumes; Ally Watters with work on props, student directing and organizing; and Obi Soash with work on sound.

To show the great amount of participation involved in making a production come together, Ronca also mentions several more adults:

“Cary Shapiro, retired Ankeny High School drama director, came in and did a stage combat workshop with us, which was a real hit with the students.

“Mike Orgler created our doomsday machine, and Mark Benson helped build and organize things.

“Rachel Vespestad and Brenda Schafbuch came to help with painting.

“Terri Weeks, secretary to the activity director, does so much for us from getting our rehearsals on the schedule, to selling tickets prior to the play and the nights of the play.

“Many other community members donated items, costumes and props, and we are grateful to them all,” she concluded.

When it comes to the show itself, Ronca thinks those attending are going to love the fact that almost all of the characters speak in accents, which is entertaining. Also, she said, “the show is just very playful and funny. There are a lot of students who have been learning ‘comic timing,’ and I think the audience will very much enjoy that as well. Many of the audience members will have grown up knowing the stories of Inspector Clouseau, so the nostalgia is also an important factor in their enjoyment.”

The “Pink Panther” script called for six or more pink panthers, who act as techies and playful characters. Ronca cast nine in the show. “They are having fun being a part of various scenes,” she said.

Ronca also noted that there are several students in extra roles in this show who have never stepped foot on a stage before. “Most of them are assassins, club patrons or servants, but those scenes are so funny.”

As for the entire cast, and what is fun for the cast as a whole, “I am excited for them to get to experience the laughter they will bring to the audience. I think that is one of the cool things about this show. Most of the parts are smaller, so the students can just enjoy being around each other with less pressure, and they can see the talents in others that they didn’t know were bubbling under the surface,” she said.

All three main characters in the play are experiencing their first times in a lead role.

Senior Kegan Odden will play the lead of Inspector Clouseau. “He got the part because of his comic timing and French accent,” Ronca said.

Paul Dreyfus will be played by senior Austin Klimpel. “He got the part because he has evolved so much through the years and had a fantastic audition,” Ronca said. “Most people would never expect to see this kind-hearted kid as a bad guy, but he is doing…quite well.”

Sophomore Bethany Kallio is playing the part of Olga Beriosiva. “She was fearless in her audition, and she had an excellent Russian accent,” Ronca said. “She had a little help because her family housed a Russian foreign exchange student for a year.”

As for the set of this play, Ronca said it has a very simple locational layout which changes rapidly. “So there are really no big, elaborate sets this year. There are backdrops and furniture items that change, but it is written as a simply staged play.”

“Pink Panther Strikes Again” will be presented this Friday and Saturday evenings, Nov. 9 and 10, starting at 7 p.m. at Ballard High School. Tickets, which are $5 for students and $8 for adults, can be purchased at the door.

This year’s goal is to see lots of new faces in attendance for the fall play. “The students would love the support,” Ronca said.