Drama starts off school year with new play, new teacher, new traditions, new look

September 14, 2010 — by Christine Bancroft

When it was announced last April that drama teacher Chris Mahle would not be returning to his position, the future of the drama department was uncertain. The students were worried that their beloved “family” would fall apart in the unforeseeable future.

In an attempt to counteract whatever unraveling of the drama community may occur during the summer break and into the new school year, the drama students began their class bonding before school began, to ensure that their newest members, the freshmen, would feel as at home in drama as their older peers have in previous years.

Drama lock-in helps students bond and reconnect
On Aug. 27 , the Drama Club leadership held a lock-in for the first time in recent years. The activities began at 6 p.m. and ran to midnight, some students leaving even later. The purpose of the lock-in was to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for freshman dramatists to get to know upperclassmen and bond with their peers.

Some of the activities included improvisational and situational acting, and various games. For six hours in the Little Theater, the 45 attending members of the drama department mentored the freshmen and helped them loosen up for the upcoming school year.

Freshman Annelise Nussbacher was one of those who found the experience to be rewarding.

“Some people were hesitant at first [when performing improv], but once people started to laugh, it got a lot better,” she said. “That’s the great thing about drama. No one is afraid of acting like a total idiot.”

With MAP coordinator and English teacher Kerry Mohnike teaching drama as well as her other classes after last year’s departure of Mahle, getting the other new members of the department to bond is more crucial than ever, said junior Natalie Berg. The upperclassmen are attempting to make the transition as easy as possible for their incoming freshmen. Berg, a member of the Drama Club leadership that planned the event, said that the event set a good tone.

“A lot of things have changed since last year, so we needed to bond, to get to know each other, and to get the new students to be a part of our community,” said Berg. “The freshmen seemed to have a lot of fun, and they were excited and enthusiastic about getting to know a lot of new people. I hope it continues in later years. It was even more successful than we
expected it to be.”

Mohnike predicts “fabulous” year for department looking forward to a terrific theater season” as she begins becoming more comfortable in her new role. Although much of the curriculum taught in the drama classes remains fairly unchanged, there have already been several changes to the department.

Some of the most noticeable changes are occurring in the Little Theater, or the “Black Box.” It has been repainted and refurbished through the help of various members of the technical crew. Couches were moved down into the room, and the lights were struck down and redesigned through the help of Berg and production designer Ken Ochi.

As the year continues, Mohnike hopes “to build on the skills they have already developed,” some of which will be highlighted in the upcoming fall play.

Drama department reintroduces Saratoga to “Our Town”
The fall play, “Our Town,” finished auditioning on Sept. 2, and cast lists were posted on Sept. 4. The play is a three-act, Pulitzer Prize-winning work written by American playwright Thorton Wilder. It was chosen for the school’s 50th anniversary, as the play was the first one performed at Saratoga High by its first graduating class, and will run on Oct. 16, 17, 23 and 24. All are Saturday and Sunday shows.

The play focuses on a small New England town in the 1800s, focusing on group of townspeople who decide to put on a play about their everyday lives and the world around them.

It will be directed by Steve Dini, produced by Kerry Mohnike and stage managed by Berg. The cast will be lead by seniors Jae Lee, David Mandell, Mikaela Burton and Chaz Main, and complemented by a group of other drama veterans, including juniors Penny Burgess, Mitchell McGuire, Michael Coe, Ariella Yendler and Joshua Harris.

“It looks to be an amazing cast,” said Mohnike. “It promises to be a fabulous, emotional retelling of ‘Our Town.'”

In addition to the fall play, a student-directed production, titled “A Woman In Black,” will be preformed in the Little Theater on Oct. 1.

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