Finding themselves without a theater production to participate in this summer, high school youths in Payson have created their own opportunity to be on stage.

A group of students ages 15 to 18 is putting the finishing touches on its own production of Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing," with plans to open Monday night. The group has been devoting hours of work to painting and repairing set pieces, trying on costumes and rehearsing blocking and lines.It's been a busy summer for Angela Newman, the 17-year-old director and producer of the show. "I've been working 21-hour days for the past two months," she said.

During the first month-and-a-half of practice, the group members rehearsed in a Payson city park on an outdoor stage. Now they are working feverishly in the Payson High School Little Theater where the production will be performed.

Newman said Payson's community theater group is presenting "Forever Plaid" this summer, but it has a very small cast. "It's a beautiful play, but there's no extra parts," she said. Some of Newman's friends were discussing this one day when the idea to do their own show surfaced.

Her friends then informed a surprised Newman to call them when she was ready to hold auditions. "Much Ado" stage coordinator Spencer Jacobs, 18, said while the group generated the idea, Newman was the one who decided they were actually going to go through with it.

This is only Newman's second attempt at directing; her first came when she directed a one-act play as a class assignment. Newman will serve next year as president of Payson High's Mask and Gavel Club, an organization for students interested in drama and debate.

In order to be able to perform their play at the high school, the group has had to have adult supervision, but it hasn't had any adult input into the play itself, Newman said. The high school's drama teacher has allowed the group to use set pieces and costumes at the high school. The group has painted and repaired many of the set pieces and sewed or bought the costumes it couldn't find. Old band uniforms are serving as military uniforms.

"Everything is funded by us," Newman said. Money raised through ticket sales will go to reimburse those who have given money.

Newman admits she's out to show that even though the students are teenagers, they can present a good show.

"At first, I just wanted to prove that we could do it. Now I want to prove that we can do it right," Newman said.

All of those participating are students at or recent graduates of Payson High, with the exception of 17-year-old Kenneth Kendall, who goes to high school in Spanish Fork. Students have been assigned roles such as choreographer, stage manager and music coordinator. All have been helping with basic production tasks.

"This has been an absolute blast," said Kendall, adding he has learned a lot about what has to be done to produce a play. "It's fun having the responsibility. . . . I think this may be a little bit more rewarding than most plays because we did everything."

"It just gives me something to do and I love it. I love to act," said Sid Hurst, 16. "I've learned quite a lot."

"The actors are wonderful," Newman said. "I wasn't expecting them all to be this good," as some have little or no experience on stage.

The play has been an immense learning experience for Newman. "I've learned that directing or being in charge of anything is more responsibility than I've ever imagined," she said. Actors have quit in mid-production, but she's found people to cover their parts. "No matter what the matter is, there's always a solution, and the problem is finding a solution."

"Much Ado About Nothing" will be performed Aug. 17-20 and Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Payson High School Little Theater, 1050 S. Main, Payson. Admission is $3; $2 for senior citizens and children 12 and under.