Drama program begins preparations for annual school play and student productions

October 9, 2021 — by Lena Aribi, Chris Chen and Avani Kongetira
Actors and technical theatre students collaborate on their productions.

Before rehearsals for the fall play, actors can be seen sitting outside the Thermond Drama Center on the green park tables or inside on seats raised in a bleacher-like semicircle, laughing, joking or tripping over the chairs. 

All of this activity is occurring as they rehearse for this year’s fall play:  “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” The play, a Shakespearean classic about mythological love and misadventure, will be performed on Nov. 12-14 and Nov. 18-20 and will be the first in-person production since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The play follows a love rectangle between Hermia (Ella Tamas King), Lysander (Krishnen Khanna), Helena (Gianna Cagliostro), and Demetrius (Jack Bulas), who enter a forest where the king and queen of fairies, Oberon (Taylor Zhou) and Titania (Julia Burgos), have come with several fairies, the most notable being Puck (Olivia Smith). 

Despite the pandemic, the drama program is not anticipating drastic modifications for the performance other than mandated mask wearing indoors. Drama director Benjamin Brotzman, who took over the department after former drama teacher Bryan Ringsted left over the summer, is looking forward to further rehearsals and getting into the “physicality of the show” through elements like stage combat. He noted, however, that performances will be made harder due to on-stage mask requirements.  

“It’s certainly difficult just because when we act, we act with the whole face, but now we have to rely on our eyes,” said junior Amrita Gopal, who plays the role of Philostrate.

Junior Ananya Gupta, who is cast as a fairy, said that the switch from recorded performances to live ones may also prove challenging for the cast, but they are well equipped with the skills they’ve learned last year. 

“A lot of the freshmen last school year really stepped up into leadership roles and worked toward learning and doing as much as they possibly could,” Gupta said. 

Another hardship the fall play is facing this year is low participation, although Brotzman said the small dip in participation compared to previous years will not have a drastic effect on the quality of the production. In 2019, “Sense and Sensibility” drew about 45 students, while this year’s fall play has 25.

Participation for the stage design, however, is higher than in previous years, due to the introduction of a new 8th-period  technical theater class. The class is responsible for designing the set for the play.

Senior set designer Leslie Robinson, who also plays the part of Snug, said that the crew is currently gathering ideas for the set and costume designs. One of her main focuses is ensuring that every element of the design meshes together while finding ways to incorporate masks into the characters’ designs.

Gupta also expected to run into challenges with the comprehension of Shakespeare’s language, but believes that reading through the script during rehearsals is helping cast members. According to Brotzman, every cast that takes on a Shakespearean play is nervous at first, but he expects that they will get past this as they practice and become comfortable with the dialogue.

Despite the difficulty in the archaic language, Gupta believes that having a live audience fosters more excitement. 

“Not only are we interacting with our fellow actors, but we are also interacting and engaging with the audience members. They become a part of the story we are telling,” Gupta said.

In spite of the challenges they are facing when rehearsing for the fall play, the cast is enthusiastic to put on a performance that almost entirely mimics the pre-pandemic world. 

“We should be able to have a show with a full set, full costumes and, [unless the COVID-19 situation changes], an audience,” Brotzman said. “It’s a lot to do, but the kids are so dedicated. When I see that dedication, excitement and passion for what we’re doing, the job is not hard.”


Note: Michael Fok and Nilay Mishra also contributed to this story.

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