Fall play premieres Nov. 12

October 19, 2016 — by Sanjana Melkote

A cast of 35 students will transform themselves into spirits, snakes, puppeteers, musicians and forces of nature to perform this year’s fall play “The White Snake” on Nov. 12, 13 and 18, 19.


The curtains retreat and the scene unfolds: a majestic mountain towers over the stage, the home of two snake spirits. During their adventure, they travel through different worlds, rob banks, fall in love, witness a battle between the ocean and the wind and more, all in the course of an evening at the McAfee Center.

A cast of 35 students will transform themselves into spirits, snakes, puppeteers, musicians and forces of nature to perform this year’s fall play “The White Snake” on Nov. 12, 13 and 18, 19.

The show has many leading roles, including six narrators. Sophomores Shasta Ganti and Dermot Gleeson, juniors Mateusz Kranz, Kelly McLaughlin and Katie Sabel, and senior Raymond McCarthy will guide the audience through the show, and throughout the rehearsal process, have been writing the music that will accompany the dialogue.

“The narrators have a large responsibility to create the atmosphere for the audience,” Gleeson said. “Compared to a character role, a narrator is much more involved, but luckily the duty is distributed.”

The character leads, White snake and green snake, take two forms in the play, as humans and as snake spirits. While in the snake form, the characters are puppeteered by seniors Amelia Berardo and Ania Kranz.

The more traditional acting leads are played by seniors Julie Cai and Kavya Sadras, taking on the human forms of white snake and green snake.

The play is based on an ancient Chinese fable that has been passed down and interpreted differently over many centuries, said drama teacher and director Sarah Thermond. The story is about two friends who live in the spirit world, White Snake and Green Snake. The pair come to Earth to cure their boredom. The play follows their journey as they venture into civilization, while learning life lessons along the way.

Many parents and students have offered insights into the culture, morals and intent of the fable, which have been greatly appreciated by Thermond and the cast in understanding the nuances of the play. The script has been adapted by Mary Zimmerman, an active American playwright, who is “known for inventively staging scenes to match the magical moments that happen in a story,” Thermond said.

“She is a master in the sense that she can make it rain on stage or represent a battle of the sky and the ocean or depict someone flying down a mountain, all on stage,” Thermond said.

One reason Thermond picked this play is that it allows a lot of room for the students to explore themes creatively and it strays away from the typical realistic productions the drama program has performed in the past including “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Matchmaker.”

Auditions were held on Sept. 8-9 and the cast has been “off book” — lines memorized and every part of the show run at least once — since the beginning of October. The play’s unique theme allows for various creative interpretations from visuals to even body movement, because these technical elements are closely intertwined with the scenes and dialogue.

“One of the climaxes of the show is a battle between the ocean and the sky,” Thermond said. “I assigned the students to teams and gave them an opponent, and then they choreographed their own fights, trying to make their movements match the quality of either water or wind. It left a lot of room for student input, and possibilities for them to have better ideas than I would’ve had.”

The script is written in modern language but structured like a fable, weaving comedy into the storyline, while incorporating a tragic ending. With only a few weeks before opening night, Thermond is excited for the community to come see the play.

“It’s an odd show; it’s different to what we’re all used to, but everyone is approaching it with such enthusiasm and creativity,” Thermond said. “Audiences might not know what they’re getting themselves into but I think they’ll love it.”

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