When the curtain falls: Franks reflects upon acting career

Kat Shambaugh, Features editor

The sound of rain pounding on the roof of NC’s theatre mixes with musical vamps and sound effects, giving the auditorium the ambience of a deathly graveyard. Through the cacophony, students perform dance routines and Darby Franks rehearses her eighth and final show at NC, The Addams Family.

As a current senior, Franks has been involved with the drama program since her freshman year. Her list of show credits validated her reputation as queen of the program. As the year wraps up, Franks looks forward to finishing off her last show, the spring musical The Addams Family, and using everything she learned at NC to aid her future in the art of words.

From Day One

Franks started her acting career by taking NC’s Drama Fundamentals class with teacher Candice “Oz” Corcoran. Franks found her first opportunity to act in the class and a pathway into NC productions.

“It definitely influenced me because you meet a lot of interesting people,” Franks said. “That’s kind of where I met my first friends so I think that definitely helped. Oz also recruits out of the classes, so she’ll tell people when there is a production coming up and recommend them. Acting is one of those things that you can pick up as you go along, but I think taking the class helped me feel better because I like having time to get my feet wet first.”

After taking her first drama class, Franks auditioned for the 2013 spring musical Once Upon a Mattress and earned a supporting role.

Entering the new world of stage productions came as a shock to her: “I think Once Upon a Mattress was my most challenging show just because I hadn’t done anything like that before. It wasn’t a very complicated role but I had to try my hardest,” Franks said.

Franks performs in her first musical, Once Upon a Mattress, in her freshman year.
Courtesy of Darby Franks
Franks performs in her first musical, Once Upon a Mattress, in her freshman year.

Over the summer, Franks transitioned from freshman to sophomore and the next semester she received her first lead, playing Catherine Donohue in These Shining Lives for the school’s entry into the regional One Act Play competition.

Franks connected to the character, which allowed her to immerse herself fully into her first real acting job.

“Catherine was honestly kind of like me because she starts off very wide-eyed and eager,” Franks said. “She also starts off kind of shy and at that point I was still inexperienced and I took it all very seriously because that was my first lead.”

In spring, Franks took part in NC’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing love interest Helena. Switching from straight plays and musicals to Shakespeare allowed Franks to explore the literature side of her passion.

“I really loved doing Shakespeare, and I think I had a bit of an easier time with it,” Franks said. “I do really like reading Shakespeare and being able to do it on stage is so different from other acting. It made me want to go out and work with The Shakespeare Tavern where they focus on the meaning of the piece because the way you read Shakespeare is so important.”

As Franks entered her junior year, she asserted her dominance over the NC drama program with lead roles in both The 39 Steps and Legally Blonde. Both shows contained happier content than previous shows and brought together new cast members.

39 Steps is kind of my pet show, I think,” Franks said. “That show was so much fun to do because the cast was a lot smaller. I think that gives you a chance to get to know the other actors a lot better than you would on a much larger show. And then whenever we’re doing a comedy you just kind of feel better doing the show and it just lightens the room.”

Franks wowed audiences so far in her senior year by participating in a new record of plays, from The Lost Boy as Peter Pan, Tracks as Homeless Girl, and the soon-to-be-on-stage The Addams Family as Morticia Addams. Each show provides Franks with new opportunities to stretch her skills.

Franks sings her heart out as she rehearses a scene in NC’s spring musical The Addams Family. The show will be her last at NC after four years in the drama club.
Kat Shambaugh
Franks sings her heart out as she rehearses a scene in NC’s spring musical The Addams Family. The show will be her last at NC after four years in the drama club.

Playing Peter Pan in The Lost Boy allowed her to experience playing a character of the opposite gender and become much more physical on stage. As her last competition play for the regional One Act competition, The Lost Boy also provided a last surge of energy.

“I really enjoyed getting to play a boy, especially because it wasn’t as different as I expected,” Franks said. “I didn’t have to be a lady strutting around on stage and huffing at the men, so that was nice. I also got to be a lot more physically involved with the character, including jumping and running so that was way different than anything I had done before.”

Outside of North Cobb

In addition to working with NC’s Standing Ovation Drama club, Franks takes her craft outside of the NC theater.

November marked Franks’ third time at the regional One Act competition. The competition incorporates schools from around the area who perform a play in under 55 minutes for judges. In her first time at competition, NC presented These Shining Lives and won second place, better than previous years.

“The year we got second, they sent me up to get all of the awards and we got Best Set, and then I go back up for Best Actress and I was just amazed. Then they send me up again for Second Place and there’s just a bunch of people from North Cobb at the bottom of the steps crying. It was like we had won, because none of us were expecting to do that well,” Franks said.

Franks poses with her Best Actress award and the Second Place trophy that NC won her sophomore year for the one act play These Shining Lives.
Courtesy of Darby Franks
Franks poses with her Best Actress award and the Second Place trophy that NC won her sophomore year for the one act play These Shining Lives.

Franks also participates as a thespian, a title awarded to students who earn enough thespian points by participating in and seeing shows. Thespians make up a nationally-recognized organization that provides scholarship opportunities and conferences in each state. As a member since her sophomore year, Franks attended Georgia’s Thespian Conference (ThesCon) twice. ThesCon takes drama education to the next level by offering dozens of seminars on topics from Technical Theater Tips to Stage Makeup to Dance Bootcamps, as well as performances from Georgia high schools.

“ThesCon is crazy and I love it because it is just the weirdest three days. I really like getting the chance to go somewhere completely different and still have the opportunity to watch a bunch of shows from around Georgia high schools and take seminars, doing new things for the first time,” Franks said.

On the other side of the spectrum, Franks also enjoys Oral Interpretation competitions. She performed an original monologue in the 2015 Regional Literary Meet for the third place spot and currently competes in the national Poetry Out Loud contest for recitation of poetry. On Saturday, March 27, Franks advanced to the State level competition.

“I didn’t actually know about it at all until this year because Ms. Foster was encouraging us to do it in AP Literature,” Franks said. “It’s really fun so far. It’s kind of nerve-wracking but you have to be a certain kind of person to want to show up and recite a poem, so when you’re at a competition you’re there in good company.”

A Future of Words

While Franks will not major in theatre in college, she does plan on studying English literature, adding to her love for words. Nevertheless, the experience of NC drama allowed her to meet new people and gain invaluable skills to support her later in life.

“One thing I have learned is how to audition without freaking out,” Franks said. It’s not scary just thinking about auditioning for me now which is awesome because I want to keep doing this possibly as a career and I can’t be paralyzed by the audition process. It’s all about knowing who you are auditioning for and being familiar with the process, and then being confident in yourself.”

Franks also cherishes the friends she found, from the new ones to those now in college.

“It’s really interesting to see pictures of people that I have done plays with now,” Franks said. “It brings back memories of what I’ve done with them. But it’s also really nice getting to see the new people come out of absolutely nowhere and do well. Then you can learn from them even when you didn’t expect to.”

Whether she pursues drama as a career or not, Franks values her time as a thespian at NC for the opportunities it gave her to create and express art: “I really do like being a part of the thespian troupe and the drama club, and that’s one major thing I really enjoy about putting on shows here. With this group, we can get together and make something way bigger than any of us can make by ourselves. That’s invaluable.”