Still Settling Into an Outsize Role

By Justin Swanson | LB Indy


Haley Castuera in the title role of the high school’s production of “Hello, Dolly.” Photo by Roark Gourley

Haley Castuera in the title role of the high school’s production of “Hello, Dolly.” Photo by Roark Gourley

Heading into her show’s final weekend, Haley Castuera has only so much time left finding out who Dolly is.

“I find something new about her each night, each performance,” explains Castuera, 18, a Laguna Beach High School senior. “It’ll be my final chance.”

The entire course of the LBHS production of “Hello, Dolly”, directed by LBHS instructor Mark Dressler, has been a discovery process for Castuera, who mentions the greats who have played her before, Barbara Streisand, Pearl Bailey, Mary Martin, until admitting, “it’s been really fun finding out who Dolly is to me.”

After her previous stand-out turn as Mother Superior in last year’s production of “The Sound of Music,” Castuera is now ending a seven-year tour under the guidance and direction of Dressler.

“Haley made the most out of it,” Dressler remembers. “She is so creative. She comes up with ideas that enhance the overall performance.”

Castuera is heading to Boston University in the fall, where she will study international relations, though she does not intend to give up her acting.

“It’s about conveying truth as opposed to playing a character,” she says of acting and her time finding Dolly. “It’s stepping out of your comfort zone, but still being honest.”

She admits that Dolly is definitely louder than her in real life, though Castuera says the most difficult time has been acting older, transcending her 18 years by more than a score.

“I have to speak slower and get rid of my valley girl accent,” she laughs.

Before each show, Castuera gets into the zone by listening to a playlist made for her by her friend Mackenna Zurschmiede.

“There’re songs by other Dollies,” she says, mentioning Streisand, Bailey, and Martin. “But there’re also songs that remind me of who Dolly is.”

The cast, she says, is smaller than previous productions, though it has only brought the group closer together. Castuera says it will be hard to say goodbye. One of her best friends, Karina Parker, who plays Irene in the show, dedicated a show to Castuera.

Still, it all started not so long ago, with no small help from the tutelary Dressler.

“In middle school, we got to go to New York,” Castuera recalls of one of her earliest opportunities to learn from Dressler. “We saw five Broadway shows. He introduced us to the stage and I am so grateful for that opportunity. I even got to meet Angela Lansbury. It’s all because of him.”

Dressler shares the appreciation of time spent mentoring his young thespians, including Castuera.

“She can do it all: dance and act. But the most obvious is her ability to sing. She has a gorgeous voice,” he says, noting her terrific rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By” that earned her the role. “She’s such an honest actor and Dolly goes against some of Haley’s natural integrity. It is a challenging role and she has risen to the occasion.”

Performances conclude this weekend Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for adults. Reserved seating is available for $20 at LBHS box office. For more information call 949-497-7769.

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