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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Drama takes on spring musical ‘Something Rotten,’ annual festival and a trip to Southern California

SHS Drama
Saratoga Drama program winning first place at Norcal Play Festival by performing Kids Come Home, written and directed by Ryan Backhus

This semester, the drama program is busy preparing for a variety of productions and festivals. On tap is the spring musical: “Something Rotten.” Students will also attend the California Thespian Festival, which celebrates competition pieces and provides workshops for different areas in drama, in Southern California from April 5-7. In addition, nine plays will be featured in this year’s New Works Festival, to be held in mid-March. Finally, the department is preparing to attend the prestigious Fringe Festival in Scotland this July. 

Play by junior Ryan Backhus places first at festival

 Earlier, a team from SHS placed first out of eight teams at the Northern California Play Festival on Jan. 20. The play, “Kids Come Home,” was written and directed by junior Ryan Backhus. It follows the story of a mother reliving the day of her daughter’s sixth birthday, constantly seeing demons that symbolize her husband’s domestic abuse and the death of her other two children. 

“It [NorCal] was fantastic — it’s the best we’ve ever done, and we were so in sync and everything,” senior Ariana Tootoonchi said. 

Spring musical set in Elizabethan Era

The spring musical, “Something Rotten,” is set in William Shakespeare’s era, the late 1500s, and follows two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are aspiring playwrights while being foreshadowed by Shakespeare’s fame. For that reason, the two brothers came up with the idea to write the first musical, which is the whole premise of the play. 

“It’s outlandish and very funny, and what’s going to draw people in is the larger than life character of William Shakespeare, along with the ridiculousness of the story,” drama director Benjamin Brotzman said. “Nigel writes this line in his musical, ‘to thine own self be true.’ The message of the play is that you can choose to do the things that you think you’re going to make money for or for the wrong reasons, but if you’re true to yourself then you will be truly happy.” The musical will debut in late April.

Besides preparation for the musical, members of the drama program will go to Southern California from April 5-7 for the California Thespian Festival. The event helps them prepare competition pieces and provides workshops to learn about different aspects of drama. This year, the festival is expanding to close to pre-COVID numbers. Total festival attendance has been up to 1,100 in the past few 3 years, but has risen to 2,200 this year. 

Students across California compete in various events like solo and group musical theater, dancing, group scenes, technical theater, stage management and combat enacting techniques. One of the goals of the festival is to get a superior score to qualify for the international festival in Indiana in the summer.

The Thermond Drama Center annually hosts the New Works Festival, which features plays written, directed and acted by students. Auditions for student actors were initially held on Jan. 11, but more were held the following few days during school day tutorials due to low attendance on the first day. The event, which is being hosted by the Drama Club, is free to attend for anyone who is interested in acting, regardless of their experience with theater. 

The nine plays featured are “Yume” written by junior Kat Aldrete and directed by juniors Niraali Garg and Rylee Stanton, “Second Degree” written by senior Caitlin Weber and junior Madison Kerner, “Flight Delay” written by Weber and directed by senior Arushi Maheshwar, “Can Someone Please Pass the Butter?” written by senior Apollo Burgess and directed by senior Ryan Cagliostro, “Hidden” written by seniors Tootoonchi and Maheswar and directed by Chloe Mantle, “Bingo!” written by Mantle and Cagliostro and directed by Burgess, “S L A M !” written and directed by Backhus, “Mephistophelian” written by Micheal Lam and directed by Backhus and “Moon Amour” written by junior Diya Kapoor and directed by Weber. 

“My play [‘S L A M !’] is a long-form poem that touches on a lot of social issues, such as war, environment and women’s rights,” Backhus said. “It follows a young girl who navigates her feelings about the world and it was inspired by a lot of current events.”

The drama department is also preparing for the Fringe Festival in Scotland this July, where members will perform the play “Zap.” They will perform the play in the second week of February, and they will further practice the play in summer before leaving for the festival. 

“A lot of us are involved in everything,” Tootoonchi said. “There’s a lot going on, but it’s really, really fun. And it doesn’t feel like too much because you’re implementing yourself in such different activities.”

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