Student productions: actors showcase their talents through self-guided performances

February 10, 2020 — by Edwin Chen and Anjali Nuggehalli

In the window between the closing of the fall play each fall and the start of the spring musical, drama students have the chance to work independently on works of their choosing.

This year, two student productions were held in the Thermond Drama Center. The first,  “Crimes of the Heart,” ran on Jan. 24, 25 and 26 and the other, “You Have the Right to Remain Dead,” played on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.  

Participants in the productions were responsible for set design, stage managing and stage building — with each under the direction of two seniors in Sarah Thermond’s advanced drama class.

Sophomore Taylor Zhou played the character of Doc Porter in “Crimes of the Heart.” The play revolves around three Southern sisters with widely differing personalities, each searching for their own identity while dealing with individual struggles such as alcoholism, abuse and dissatisfaction with life. Zhou played the ex-lover of Meg, one of the three sisters.

“‘Crimes of the Heart’ is unique because unlike typical theater, it’s only set in one place,” Zhou said. “It follows the old principles of theater which are a concrete idea of setting and time period.” 

“Crimes of the Heart” was directed by Elodie Torres, who is the captain of the ComedySportz team and is also on the media and marketing board for the drama program.

Directing student productions is an honors project for Drama 4 students, and Torres applied at the end of her junior year, earning the opportunity to direct due to her continued participation in the program.

While Torres doesn’t have any plans to pursue directing as a career, she learned valuable skills during the process, such as leadership, creativity and dedication.    

“Directing is a huge undertaking, but I’m really glad I did it because the final product is something I’m super proud of,” she said.

Junior Stephen Ludwig was a cast member of “You Have the Right to Remain Dead,” directed by Surbhi Bhat. 

This play took a more comedic approach than “Crimes of the Heart,” which has a much darker tone. It also involved improv and audience participation, and characters were free to ad-lib during the performance. The play revolved around a murder mystery involving a Southern family full of secrets. 

Both casts had around two months to perfect their shows, unlike the several months of preparation allotted for the fall play and upcoming spring musical, “Freaky Friday.”

The two casts practiced each school day, either in the Thermond Drama Center or in the cafeteria. Because both shows had the same practice schedule, the directors had to work out rehearsal spaces. However, having around nine students per cast made organizing rehearsals much less complicated. 

Zhou believes that the small cast sizes also provide opportunities for students to shine in their roles.

“Student productions are a much more intimate experience, and it’s easier to get a more significant role than if you were in a bigger production,” Zhou said. “Especially if you’re an aspiring actor, trying something that’s smaller-scaled can be really helpful.” 



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