Highschool Theatre

What Highschool Theatre Taught Me

Amelia Brooker

Preparing to graduate high school, I am looking back on the moments that shaped me through the last few years. The most vivid memories, the times that have stuck with me, are those spent with my high school theatre company.

High school theatre taught me to sing, dance, and act, but also taught me so much about myself and my relationship with the world around me. Some of the best lessons do not have to do with theatre specifically, but how to succeed in general. The following are five of the best lessons I learned in high school theatre, which are ideal for both students entering this sphere, as well as anyone entering a new area of life.



1. Do not hold anything back

Looking back on my theatre experience, my biggest regret is not pushing myself further. Whether it comes from self-consciousness or lack of experience, it is easy to hold back in some areas. Giving anything less than one hundred percent will inhibit you as you move forward. You might not have any dance experience but seek help and practice. You might be bad at improv but give it a try and hope for the best. Nothing but good will come of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.


2. Avoid the drama

What do you get when you put a few dozen of the most dramatic kids in school together in one room, for five, ten, fifteen hours a week? And then have them compete for roles? Even the closest and kindest groups of theatre kids will get on each other’s nerves once in a while. The best advice I can give is to stay out of it completely. Do not spread rumors, criticize other performers, or give in to any drama. You’ll be happier if you stay out of it all.


3. Be a team player

Theatre is a team sport. Even a small-scale production requires dozens of people to fulfill all the necessary requirements. You will need to work with all kinds of people who have different ideas, points of view, and levels of experience. Listen to others’ ideas with an open mind, speak with kindness, and treat everyone equally. Trusting the people you work with is of the utmost importance in theatre, whether it be actors, directors, stage managers, or crew. Because in such an unpredictable environment, strong and trusting relationships will take your far.


4. Adaptability is your best asset

To build off the last point, working with others sometimes requires compromise. You might disagree with how a director wants to do something or have a discrepancy with another actor or crew member. The choreography might change the week before the show, or a new rehearsal be added last minute. Live theatre is fast-paced and unpredictable, so going with the flow is always the best option. Being able to adapt to a new situation or rise to the occasion will serve much better than fighting it.


5. Be present and enjoy yourself

It is no secret that doing theatre on top of the regular stresses of high school can be difficult. Like any other class or activity, it requires you to put your best foot forward in order to succeed. However, the memories you make and the relationships you build will make it all worthwhile. Through the early morning and late-night rehearsals, quick trips for food before rehearsals. and bonding over show runs, theatre can be some of the best times of your high school life. Enjoy every burst of laughter, every piece of fun choreography, every song you get to belt out with your friends. Create an atmosphere of positivity and creativity and be your authentic self. Do everything you can so that in the future, you can look back and smile.

 

How to Succeed in Performing Without Really Trying

Elizabeth Bergmann

Three years ago, at the 2016 Tony Awards, James Corden sang about how seeing a show makes us say "That could be me!" When I was a freshman in high school, I was cut from the volleyball team and needed a new activity to fill my fall semester, so my band squad leader suggested the fall play. In the summer of 2018, I talked my whole family (Mom, Dad, and younger brother) into doing The Music Man with my community theatre family. We all have different ways that we find ourselves wanting to enter the world of theatre. Maybe a local group is doing one of your favorite shows, or a friend keeps insisting you should do a show together (I am this friend).

 

Whatever the reason, providence seems determined to get you in a show. If you’re brand-new, from a non-theatre family, and generally haven’t done anything except those school plays about bullying and the seasons, you have no clue what you’re getting into. The idea of auditioning for a big show can be terrifying. People throw out words like “blocking” and “dramaturge” and you have no clue what they’re talking about. With no single source of all this information available up to this point, I’ve decided to become that single source myself. I plan to focus on auditions for musical theatre, mostly because those tend to be the most complicated, but aspects of it will apply to auditioning for plays, as well. So, if you have no clue where to start, why not start here?

 

Where do I find a group to do a show with?

There are lots of Facebook groups for different theatrical groups and communities. I’m lucky enough to currently be in two groups that cater to my area, but local news sources and postings can let you know what is in your area. There may even be smaller groups that you rarely hear about looking for fresh talent! I found my community theatre family pretty much by accident: they rehearse in the same community center where I was taking dance classes. If you know people who perform, ask them where. If you’re a student, look for your school’s program. Find out which shows these groups are doing, and check when they rehearse. What’s the cast size? Can you be at rehearsals? If it looks like you’d be able to be in this show, audition!

 


What do I do to get ready for auditions?

The first thing I like to do when considering auditioning for a show is research. Who wrote the show? What is the basic story? What style of music is it? Are there any characters you’d like to play? I tend to accidentally memorize shows, but general familiarity will be your best friend. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into (a girl quit a Guys and Dolls production I was in because she suddenly discovered it could be a little sexist), and this will also give you a baseline for your audition. The audition description will tell you if you need to prepare a monologue, a song, or anything else. Monologues should fit the tone and time period of the show you’re auditioning for. Pick a song that you know you can sing well no matter what condition your voice is in. I personally don’t recommend a song you don’t know too well, but also try to avoid cliché audition songs (that’s a whole other article, ask theatre friends and/or Google if you aren’t sure). The song should ideally be in the style of the show, so do a pop song for a pop show, a classical song for a classical show, etc. Be sure to have sheet music, or a karaoke track, or whatever else they might say you need to supply. Plan out an audition outfit (again, a whole other article), and make sure it’s not too specific and you can move in it.

 

What do I do once I get to auditions?

Show up a little early so you can fill out any forms, turn in sheet music, whatever you need to do before you get up and sing. As you fill out the form, be honest about any conflicts so they can make a rehearsal schedule. If they ask if you want a specific role, put it down. Since you’re just starting out, I highly suggest putting that you’d be willing to play any role and that you’ll take an ensemble role. Ensemble is a great place to start, and directors often like to see that you’re not just here for the one role you specifically auditioned for. After you turn in the form, you’ll usually be singing. You might sing in front of just those casting, you might be in a small group, or you might be singing in front of everybody. If you have an accompanist (pianist), let them know what sections you’re singing and the tempo you’d like to sing it at. You might be asked to introduce yourself, usually by giving your name and the song you’re singing. As you sing, try to act while you perform your song. If it’s a happy song, show that you’re happy, if it’s sad, be sad-- you get the idea. Once everyone has sung, you may be asked to dance a little, or to do “cold reads” from the script (perform a scene with little to no practice time). Take whatever they throw at you and give it 100% effort. You might get called back, you might not, but make sure they’ve seen that you can do a lot with whatever you’re given.

 

What happens after auditions?

The cast can be announced in a number of ways. You might receive a phone call or an email, there could be a website, a Facebook page might be set up, etc. A lot of groups may ask that you respond to accept or decline a role (I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be prompt in responding).You’ll likely receive a date for a read-through and a rehearsal schedule, which you’ll want to put in your calendar as soon as possible. You’ll receive either a separate script and score or a full libretto. You’ll want to check and ask if you can use highlighters or if it’s pencils only for marking it. GUARD YOUR SCRIPT. Bare minimum, write your name in the front cover so people know it’s yours. Script thieves are everywhere, and your name in it means you can get it back.

 

What should I do in rehearsals?

Up until tech week, rehearsals will be just about learning and perfecting the material. You may or may not be rehearsing in the space you’re performing in. You’ll take this time to learn music, dances, and any lines or blocking you’ll need to know. Show up to rehearsal on-time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your fellow actors, your director, and especially your stage manager are all there to help and support you. Write notes for blocking (movement while acting), choreography, and music so you don’t forget them. If someone asks a question about costumes, shoes, hair, or makeup, listen for the answer (and I’ll tell you more later).

 

What’s this “tech week” people talk about all the time?

“Tech week” is the last week of rehearsals before the show opens. It’s dedicated to incorporating the technical elements into the show, hence “tech week.” You’ll be in the performance space, and these will be the longest rehearsals you’ll ever experience. You’ll likely be called earlier and kept later. In addition to technical elements (lights, sound effects, microphones, etcetera), your show’s band/orchestra will appear (if there is one) and you’ll be in costume with hair and makeup done. These rehearsals are meant to perfect runs of the show so it’s ready by opening. You’ll likely get notes each night, and you’ll want to write these down and implement them. Everybody will be stressed and tired, so make sure to take care of yourself and have patience. Maybe give something nice to your stage manager so they don’t go insane.

 

You keep talking about costumes, hair, and makeup. What do I need to do for that?

Each theatre group is different. You might be supplying your own costume, or they might have them for you. You should learn what you need to supply from the production team, but don’t be afraid to ask. As a good base, it might be wise to invest in character shoes if you play lady roles, black dress shoes if you play man roles, and jazz shoes either way. Each production has different visions, but these shoes usually work no matter what time period you’re in. As for hair, you might be doing your own or someone might be doing it for you. This depends on the group. If you are doing it yourself, ask for what it should look like for the show. Wigs might be involved depending on the show.

 

Now, makeup. I know some groups will have other people doing your makeup, but I’ve always done it for myself. If you are doing it yourself, everybody has their own preferences for how they do it. Some shows will require bright colors or wrinkles or something drastic, but a lot of shows are fairly simple. My advice: Your face, but bigger. I recommend foundation to even out your skin, concealer for under your eyes, blush to give you some color, and eyeliner & mascara to bring your eyes out. If you’re an eyeshadow and lipstick person, use nude browns on the eyes and pick a lipstick that looks natural (unless this is a time period where red was the color of choice). Apply a little more of everything than you would for every day. The whole purpose of stage makeup is to ensure your face looks good from the back row of the theatre. Ask your castmates for help if you’re not sure how much is too much.

 

What should I expect from performances?

Things will go right, and things will go wrong. The whole atmosphere of a show is different when there is an audience there with you. The important thing is to not add things once the show opens. You’ll be tempted to push for laughs or try something new, but don’t do it. Make sure you’re paying attention to the show so you don’t miss your cues. Enjoy the applause and feed off the audience to keep your energy up. There is nothing more thrilling than performing for a great audience. You’ll likely get to greet the audience after curtain call, so take that opportunity to thank everyone who came to see you.

 

What happens when the show ends?

A lot of groups need help striking the show after, so be sure to stay and help with that. There will likely be a cast party that you should definitely attend. You’ll probably be sad, and your time will feel a lot emptier without rehearsals in there. But that just means you can look forward to the next show! Not many people can stop after just one.

 

I hope you’ll find your home in the theatre. It has been the best family I could ever ask for, and it really will fill you with a joy that nothing else can create. Welcome home! We're glad to have you!

Favoritism? Or Just Not Good Enough?

When one looks back at the high school drama experience, one common theme continues to rear its ugly head - favoritism. From TV shows to your local high school, you hear all about how favoritism is rampant… But what if I told you it does and SHOULD take more than talent to get a role at the educational level? Blasphemous, right? What else could possibly go into the process?

 

Show selection:

 For those of you who have had to pick shows for either a high school or other groups (community theatre companies, professional companies, etc.) there has to be a fundamental understanding of the community/talent you have access to. If I live in rural Alabama with 1% of the population being Black/African American, I’m sure as heck not going to be Hairspray or Ragtime (though that does not stop people, smh). If I have a huge amount of men who show up to auditions consistently, I probably wouldn’t do Little Women or 9 to 5. You get the point! You have to have some sort of idea of who you could potentially casting so that your company/school has a successful production. However, I will be clear that this is NOT the same as precasting - just because one is aware of the people who could be auditioning and picks shows that suit those strengths is not the same as handing someone a role regardless of the audition. Picking shows without your school in mind is a mistake.

 

****Your**** audition:

 Now, obviously, auditions can be scary! Nerves can happen, and in some cases, they can be super hard to overcome. Something that I have learned over the time I’ve spent auditioning is that instead of looking outwards and blaming others for me not getting what I would have wanted… Let’s examine how I actually did in the room. How did I sound? Was my song/monologue appropriate? Were my beats/intentions clear? There are SO many things that go into your performance/audition, and while obviously we all try our best in the room, sometimes our talent is not showcased to the best of our abilities. While blaming others is a very comfortable thing to do, without looking at what you could have done better you’re limiting your opportunities to grow.

 

Someone else’s audition:

 Sometimes, regardless of the subjectivity of talent, someone has just a better audition than you. It happens! They came in and had a really good day, they sang a better song, they showed their gifts off better than you did in this instance. There’s nothing to be done in a case like this except do the best you can each time you walk into the room. Hell, there are people who I have seen who are just SUCH great auditioners… And that work then doesn’t translate quite as well when they go to perform. Auditioning well is such a valuable skill, and sometimes someone else just comes in and kills it.

 

 

What the director values/is looking for:

 There are so many interpretations of theatre, which is one of its best qualities. We can agree or disagree, however when it comes to the director's vision at the end of the day that is what will shape the casting process. What if you’re a better singer than actress but the director wants a better actress than singer? Or vice versa? It’s all subjective, but at the end of the day if you don’t fit the director's vision you have to go about changing their mind. That may not happen in 16-32 bars, a cold read, a dance call, and a callback (if you get all of that!). While I did say previously we do need to be introspective about how we do in room, remember that the creative process is still more than just you!

 


High School Drama, the EXTRAcurricular:

 For one, being involved in your school’s shows is not a right but a privilege. Being a student of the school, things like behavior/grades will absolutely be something that is reflected upon. Whether it be in the classroom of the teacher or around the school, being a good citizen absolutely is something that is kept in mind. Being involved with drama (the non-performative sort) or being a disruptive force during the creative process will not bode you well. Regardless of how well you sing or anything of the like, educators don’t reward those (usually) who don’t deserve it. Unreliable students should not, and in many cases do not get what they want in drama departments. While people being a teacher's pet/etc should NOT be the thing that gets people parts, it is absolutely a point in your favor - do your best to be the best you can be… it will more than likely be noticed.

 

How “talented” you are:

 In an attempt to say this as nicely as possible - there are a lot of people in the world who have a slightly (or majorly) inflated sense of self. While someone may think they are the next *insert Broadway star*, the reality of it is that not only is there always someone better… But we may not be good as we think we are (or alternatively, we may not have done as well as we think we did). This is a weird bullet to swallow, but at the end of the day this absolutely can be someone’s Achilles heel.

 All of this to say, there is SO MUCH that goes into the picking of shows/casting/the creative process. While obviously there are PLENTY of schools/instances that really go above and beyond anything I’ve just talked about, we do have to continue to keep in mind the multidimensional aspect of casting and season selection. For those of you who find yourself stuck in either a school or community where you deeply/truly believe that the favoritism is so rampant do not hesitate to find greener pastures or other opportunities. It’s absolutely unfair at times that things like these can ruin an experience, however all I am asking for is for people to be honest with themselves and open about the potential “why” of a situation.

 Next article I’ll hopefully be talking the conversation of creating your own art! As someone who has recently started his own theatre company, I’ve spent the last year developing a nonprofit. If you have any questions you want me address in the next article comment below!

To the Unrecognized Theatre Workers

SarahLynn Mangan
A thank you letter to all those not recognized or hardly recognized for their work in the theater. Many times, the people who get the least thanks are those who do the most.

To the costumers to dressers to set builders to painters, to the stage managers and their tech-operators and their running crews, thank you. To the casting directors to the choreographers to the dance captains, thank you. To the laundromats to the wigmakers to the curtain cleaners, thank you. To the conductor to the pit to the assistant music directors, thank you. To the people who came up with the original vision of the production to the ones who decided to take a chance on it, thank you. To the marketers to the poster making companies to the web design fanatics, thank you. To the ushers to the program folders to the kiosk tenders, thank you. To the house manager to the production manager to the assistant stage manager to the interns to the box office manager, thank you.

 Thank you for creating theatre and always being willing to sacrifice your time, your energy and frankly your sanity to put on a wonderful show that is reflected through the actors on stage.

 Actors are consistently receiving flowers, food, and praise for their performances and connection with the audience, but I believe that the most praise should go to you people and even all the people I didn’t list. The actors would not be receiving this praise if it was not for you.

 I know you know this and you say it in your own head before the curtain opens or whenever someone gets hissy at you asking “Well what did you even do for this show?” but I am going to recognize it anyway, here in writing.

 For many of you on this list, your talents could be used in many different areas in the world, but you choose to spend them on something that can truly make an impact on either the teenagers seeing their first show or the elders seeing their last. Without you willing to spend a fraction of your talent in this industry, actors would not have anything to work for.

 Thank you for putting up with stuck up actors and people who really have no idea what your job entails but still being willing to continue to work with them.

 From the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

 

 Now for those actors who don’t always say thank you to the costumer every time they repair your costume or your dresser who helps you during the fastest quick change of your life, start thanking them. For those who don’t come in early to see what they can help with during tech week whether that being painting the set, sewing some hems, or even folding some programs, start doing that. For those who might have some extra cash to order an underappreciated crew member some coffee or a donut, start doing that. Start taking the time to really appreciate the people who help your job run smoothly, cause without them, you would be naked in an empty theatre with no lights on except for the ghost light.

Finally, for those audience members who get grumpy at the house manager or ushers when you arrive late and can’t be seated, take a deep breath and relish in the fact that you have made it to a theatre where all your troubles are supposed to melt away. For those who never shake the hands of the orchestra or stay until the end of the exit music, start doing so because they tend to do more work than the actors on stage, and applause for them after the exit music. For those who stare at the crew when you see them for a quick second in confusion for wearing all black, ask them what they did for the show and congratulate them on a smooth show. For those who aren’t patient with the box office start doing so and maybe they can figure out how the dates on your tickets were actually for a week ago instead of tonight.

 If everyone took the time to thank the people we don’t think of when we think of theatre production, everyone would have a grander time at the most amazing place in the world, the stage.

An Ode to the Small Theatres

Jonathan Fong
Here’s an ode to the smaller ones among us.

Here’s to the actors who toil away in closet-sized rehearsal spaces, warm up in public bathrooms, and stretch on odd tables and benches. To the leading lady bursting with excitement to be let loose, even if only on a makeshift ‘stage’ that’s actually a cornered off part of the gym. To the boy cast in his first show, frantically going over each of his ten lines to make sure he nails each and every one of them.

Here’s to the artists who have to make do. Here’s to the painters who paint masterpieces of backdrops with dollar-store paint and decade-old brushes because they don’t have anything left in the budget to use. Here’s to the prop designers who stuff old top hats with underwear to make them stand and painstakingly tape together broken props that just need to last one more show five minutes before curtain. Here’s to the costumers who play Dr. Frankenstein each time a new show’s put on, mixing and matching costume parts and hats and wigs to make something that, in the end, surprisingly looks like it might actually be right.

Here’s to the crew, scurrying about and coordinating with runners and messengers because they can’t afford radios. Here’s to the volunteer stagehands dressed in varying assortments of black, grey, and the odd white sock from the newbie on their first production who didn’t know they were supposed to wear all black for a reason. Here’s to the stage managers, clipboards filled with unintelligible scribbles and minds filled with unintelligible cues they have to call right. Here’s to lighting, to SFX, to the technicians using decade-old mixers and forever entangled rigging, braiding old cables and wires if only to make do for opening.

And here’s to the director, hair in a constant frazzle from telling people where to go and what to do while himself trying to juggle his brilliant creative direction with the demands and limits of what he has now. Here’s to the choreographer struggling to teach the 10-year-olds in the ensemble how to do the finale song’s choreo the night before opening. Here’s to the friends, the family, those loved ones who inevitably come to support all this controlled madness on opening and closing night (sometimes, the same night). Because one day, maybe all of these people might move on, graduate to bigger and better productions, command Broadway stages and garner appreciation, while the next generation fills their place in the wings, waiting for their chance to shine.

Here’s to the small theatres and what they bring us all.

The Aha Moment

SarahLynn Mangan

As someone who was introduced to the concepts of performing at a very young age, I have never really had that Aha moment of “oh my gosh theatre is amazing!”

I am very involved in my school’s performing arts program and yet did not have the time in my schedule to take the drama class until my senior year. Unfortunately, my school does not have enough drama classes to have a beginning class and an advanced class, making the two that they do have all levels. However, the amazing thing that this does create is an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other. Something I have learned is that when you experience someone else’s Aha moment it can be magical.

I am currently taking part in a workshop that focuses on the “August Wilson Monologue Competition” which takes place in our region in January. This workshop allows students to stay after school and really delve into the works of August Wilson and become exposed to an amazing playwright. There are about seven students who are regularly taking advantage of this workshop and three of them are students who have never really had anything to do with performing before. On the first day of the workshop, they were given monologues randomly that happened to be the mentor's favorite ones and once they had finished reading their eyes lit up with confusion. Confusion at how the monologues were so relevant to their lives, how the words intrigued them, and how they felt the need to tell them to the world..



Another day at the workshop we had to stack chairs that would visually show our characters burdens and then had to push them across the room as we read the monologues out loud. One of them noticed that a lot of the same burdens the character had, they had as well.

The final day of that week of the workshop we each performed our monologues for the group and got feedback on what could be improved and how we could really push our limits. As the mentor was speaking to one of the students urging them to keep going and take the monologue further into the depths of their own lives, they had their full Aha moment. They couldn’t believe how theatre was pulling emotions out of them that had been dug into a deep hole long ago and how the character that was created three decades ago could relate to them in the modern day and a modern life. After that, they became even more engaged in what was being taught and even commented on how theatre is something like therapy.

To see someone have their own Aha Moment was amazing, and I hope to someday be able to give someone their very own moment of discovery in theatre.

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter: Highschool Theatre

Jyothi Cross

I thought long and hard about what to write about this week, like I have had no inspiration for anything unique but I was scheduled in so there was no escape. I really wasn't sure what to write about, and then I competed in a band competition at school. A few weeks before that I took part in our school production of Sweeney Todd and I realized something:

School theatre is toxic. 

It's such a nasty environment for young people to grow up in because people are never fully honest.

So here's my open letter, to all the people who tell you to stop being yourself when you do school theatre.

It starts as a little complaint, they tell you to tone it down a bit. Maybe in a jokey way. Then you start seeing scowls behind backs, whispers. They insult you to your face because you're showing them up. A 'flamboyant' personality becomes a threat, and you hear whispers in the Green Room about how someone else deserves that part, or someone else would be better.

I know, I've been one of those whisperers, and I've been one who's been whispered at. But why are we so afraid of simply supporting each other?

And this is why I raise my right finger - because it's taken me a long time to build up my self-confidence to the point where I can make myself look like a fool on stage all for the sake of a show. It has also taken me a long time to realize that the people who were given the parts which I complained about were chosen for a reason, teachers don't simply pick names out of a hat, and it doesn't make sense to question their choices - after they've directed around 20 plays at your school. So, when you call someone 'embarrassing' because they dance about and have fun, remember there is a person on the other end of that line, who was chosen for a specific reason and who has worked their butt off to try and get up there.

I need to remember that too. Because so many have it ingrained in us that other actors are competition, you can't work harmoniously with someone who gets a better part than you, but instead we just need to own it. We need to own our parts, our stories, our fun.

Of course, it feels like such a lie, that the ensemble is just as important as the lead, but ensemble simply means you fit into the puzzle in a different way. You're allowed to go for it, you're allowed to own your role even if you're Villager #24. You just have to raise your right finger, and solemnly swear:

That whatever they say about you, you don’t care.

 

Performer Misconceptions

Show business is tough. No one’s denying that. But people tend to say things about performing and Broadway sometimes which just strike me as a bit off. So, without further ado, I’m going to be addressing the issues I have with four common Broadway misconceptions.


Getting on Broadway is about being the most talented.

It is. But there’s so much more than that. It’s about checking the boxes.

Broadway isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ deal. The casting director will have specific – sometimes very specific – preconceptions about what they want and who they want for it. You could put a fresh new spin on old material, and yes, even if you can belt a high A like nobody’s business, sometimes that’s just not what they’re looking for. Maybe they specifically want someone of a certain race (a practice I despise, but that’s beside the point) for the role, or maybe they want the entire ensemble to have a particular ‘look’. Maybe they’re trying to find a replacement for an outgoing actor and they don’t want to pay to re-fit the costume (I’ve actually spoken to a Broadway actor who said that they got turned down at final callbacks for one show, then got cast for the very next show they auditioned for, both for that very reason). If you don’t fit what they already have, both metaphorically and literally, even if you’re a just as (or more) talented actor, singer, or dancer as those waiting in the audition room behind you, you might not get the part. It’s just showbiz.

Changing the key is taboo.

Yes, I know no one ever wants to tell their director that they want to change the key for fear of derision and scorn. But sometimes, it really is necessary – and not only that, it can help so, so much. I will admit that songs are often written with a specific key in mind – different keys do sometimes convey different emotions simply by way of the ‘sound’ they produce, something I’m sure those with perfect pitch often sense either consciously or unconsciously. But I say changing the key doesn’t ruin a song - it just lets a performer put their all into their performance in a way the original key wouldn’t have allowed them to. In Legally Blonde, the key for the ending of So Much Better has been lowered three full times since the first demo recording – originally written in A major, the song was first shifted down to the original Broadway key of G major then all the way down to F-major for all subsequent professional productions (as licensed by MTI). And yet, the sheer power of the song hasn’t been changed at all – most people, quite frankly, haven’t noticed, and I for one am continually impressed by the blonde belters who pull off the number with pizazz. During his tenure in Newsies, Dan Deluca had the key of Something to Believe In shifted down a step from G major down to F major, a key change allowed him to pull off one of the most romantic performances of the song I’ve ever seen.

The lead performer is always the best in the cast.

This one goes along the same lines as the first one about being the most talented. The lead might not have the best voice or acting chops in the cast, but they might have the best work ethic or, dare I say it, the star power and appeal to draw audiences to a show (yes, I’m talking about stunt casting), all things essential to a show’s financial success as a business. In other words, they just happened to tick the right boxes. But that in no way diminishes the talent of the rest of the cast. The supporting character might not have the high G in their repertoire that the lead does and which might be necessary for a certain role, but given the chance maybe they too could make a full audience cry on cue. The understudy might be an up-and-coming talent who simply doesn’t have yet the resume of the established lead actor (Jeremy Jordan, known for his Bonnie & Clyde and his Newsies exploits but lesser well known as a former understudy for the role of Tony in West Side Story on Broadway, comes to mind). Suffice it to say that someone having top billing in a show’s Playbill doesn’t equate to them being the best in the cast



The best performers are those that never fail.

For this last one, I think the following saying conveys my thoughts better than anything else: “Don’t judge a blooper reel by a highlight reel’s standards.” You might have seen a star deliver moving performance after moving performance to an enthralled crowd of thousands leaping to a standing ovation. But you probably haven’t seen them cry after being turned down for the part again or rip up their sheet music in frustration after the tenth vocal crack of the day on that one high note (Laura Bell Bundy in Legally Blonde comes to mind – not vocal cracks specifically, but you can tell from recordings she struggled at times with the ending note in “So Much Better”, even if the rest of the performance was good enough that you were too distracted to notice when she took a breath in the MTV recording of the show). You probably haven’t seen them shudder with nerves in front of an opening night crowd or fall in rehearsal three times in a row. And I know for a fact that some of the best performers in the world have done these very things. Why? Because the best performers aren’t those who never fail. Those don’t exist. The best performers are those who work through and work with their failures, using them to make themselves better and more consistent as performers and stronger as people.

Getting Ready for College Auditions: Part 1

Henri Tomic


It's almost Halloween and Holiday Season, and what does that mean for high school age theatre kids?

Right: College Auditions, Unifieds, Preparations, getting your book sorted, and oh wait, that's not even everything yet, for many there is this small detail called graduating from High School. It is very easy to get caught up in this jungle of new things, decisions and constantly having to prove yourself. But trust me, in the end, everything will be worth it, and you will look back on everything you learned in this intense time.

But to make it even a tiny bit easier for you, I will answer a few burning frequently asked questions (aka what I wish I had known back then)


When is the right time to (apply/) audition?
In general, there is no right and wrong, and if you're incredibly talented, you might just as well get accepted if you attend the very last audition. However, bear in mind that each school has a certain number of places to fill, and if you therefor the first audition, you might benefit, as they still have all their places available, and they can't really know who else will come up for the other auditions. Meanwhile, you might experience that at certain schools for later auditions either all applicants compete for just one or two remaining places, or even that they are already full before you even enter the audition room. In the end, it's all a matter of luck and who comes in at the right moment (e.g. after a terrible applicant) so go with your gut feeling, but as a general rule of thumb the earlier, the better. (Also you might have less stress with your exams then.)


How to find the right school/college etc. for me?
This is a tough one. First of all, it is important to acknowledge that there is no school that is right for everyone. Some people need a high standard, big groups, and a lot of competitions to thrive; others need a more personal experience with teachers tracking their individual progress. Some want to be close to a theatre to get inspiration in all the hard training; others want to save on accommodation. So really and truly there is no right and wrong, and if you have it in you, you can make it on Broadway or West End, regardless of your school and background. This doesn't mean your choice is irrelevant, though. In fact, it is crucial that you get to the very place you can be. Don't let yourself be fooled, though, by glamorous reputations or big names, acting, singing and dance are about connections, on stage or camera. This means you need to be able to fully connect to your tutors and open up to them, if for some reason a world-renowned college felt wrong for you, and you didn't feel a connection at your audition or research, forget about it, and you might find that your heart leads you to a very different lesser-known school. And fast forward ten years you will be their first big name on their homepage.



What to expect at auditions?
All schools have their very own method of finding their students. Nevertheless, everyone (for MT) will want to hear you sing, they will see you act mostly by using a monologue, and they will see you dance/move.

When it comes to singing they will more often than not ask for two contrasting songs, i.e. a classical one and one that is more contemporary, of which one is more upbeat and uptempo than the other one. Here it is important to make the right choices and choose songs that highlight your talents, but at the same time come very natural to your voice even under pressure and allow you more for storytelling than just forcing these high notes. Keep in mind that you might not have had a sufficient warm up before an audition that might be either very early or very late and you will be very nervous especially in the beginning. The panel is looking for you telling a story and performing in front of an audience rather than you showing off (and potentially failing).

Consult a vocal teacher and experiment with a number of different songs that work for you. Try to surprise the panel and find something that they haven't heard a million times already or reminds them of their last breakup etc.

When it comes to acting, nine times out of ten, they will ask you for at least one monologue. Obviously, I could give you hours worth of advice about posture, diction, intentions, objectives, Stanislavski, pauses and so on, but that's not the point here. Something that helped me a lot to boost my performance and to improve in all of these areas was to drop the idea of it being a monologue. When we think of monologues, we think of somebody delivering over-dramatised lines, standing in front of a panel. But guess what, they weren't written in that way, in fact, did you ever see a (good) show and even noticing a monologue (although they were guaranteed many)? No one writes a monologue (at least no playwright), they are merely part of a play, and we must think of it as a mini-performance (think off-off-off-off-off- Broadway). This idea helps a lot, but there is something about the idea of being on stage, in a play, that automatically makes us slow down, move, and not weirdly wandering of into acting land. In your audition you're performing a one-man play in front of a tiny audience, and you need to behave that way. Think back to some of the great plays (or movies ) you have seen where the character bursts into a very dramatic and emotional or inspiring speech. For once, now, that's you, and you want to make an impression.

Other than the monologues you probably will have to do some kind of improvisation, physical theatre or any other interacting acting exercises. Here they want to see how you can pass energy back and forth. The key here is simply to go with it (as crazy as it might seem) and not be afraid to make yourself a fool. Because if you're doing awesome everyone will admire your performance, if not, you won't see any of them again anyway, so why even care about them. Make sure to be kind and friendly to everyone and collaborate well, communication is key here.

When it comes to dance and movement, there isn't much you can prepare, other than to attend as many jazz dance and ballet classes as you can, preferably by several different teachers, so that you get used to different lesson- and choreography styles.

Make sure, to be honest in the audition room and ask whenever is unclear, if you consider yourself more of a mover, don't try to hide this but work as hard as you can. Dance teachers love it if you're trying to go the extra mile working extra hard to get it right, practice even everyone else is taking a break and ask them for advice if just don't seem to get it right. If they know you are a fighter, they can get you anywhere in three or four years.


How to deal with nervousness/anxiety?
Everyone is nervous at auditions and that is completely fine, the key is to channel your nervousness to give you energy and focus, rather than to hinder your performance.

There are a couple of things to think about that might help with that:

Number one, everyone behind the table is on your side. I know this isn't easy to process, but what I mean by that is, each of them is hoping to get the best students for them, and they are sitting all day there waiting for that to happen. In fact, they might even have higher hopes in you than you in yourself, because if you were this perfectly talented student, they wouldn't need to keep searching and staying there every week/month looking at more and more applicants. This means if you mess up you're beginning or don't hit this important note, don't let it determine the rest of your performance, they want you to be good, and they want to get to know you. Because after all the one thing they are looking for is if they seriously want to continue working with your for all these years, so if you're enthusiastic, open to their feedback and kind they will see that and overlook where you still need training. They are looking for potential and passion and not perfection because it would be incredibly boring to teach a perfect student.

Another image that helped me a lot was to see the whole thing as a performance opportunity:

You want to be on a stage in the middle of hundreds of spotlight, performing in front of thousands of people, many of you will have done some kind of performances before, and I'm almost certain you had more than 2-4 audience members ;) This might just be the most relaxed performance you will ever have, an incredibly tiny audience who are all on your side and haven't paid thousands of dollars to see you perform, they have no expectations and want you to be good, you will never experience such a forgiving audience in a Broadway theatre.

So dive right into you're work from now on, every minute can be used productively, you got this! Fingers crossed and break a leg, and see you on Broadway!!!




Showmance: A Study

Jyothi Cross

Rumours run around in every show you do. Secret kisses backstage. Wanting eyes onstage. At least, that’s what everyone says. But is the legendary ‘showmance’ truly real? Welcome to my lecture.


My school did Beauty and the Beast as its show last year, and it was, as the kids say, fun times – lots of bouncy musical numbers, some crazy costumes, and a good old-fashioned romance. This is the setting for my first case study: “Belle and the Beast”. Now I have two friends, let’s called them Oscar and Gertrude (disclaimer: these are not their real names). Oscar and Gertrude had to kiss onstage. It was an exciting moment, Oscar’s first kiss with a girl two years older than him who played the main character in the show – at my school, this makes you a literal celebrity – and we were all very excited. Wooh, first kiss! Oscar was even more excited. In fact, for the next few weeks (aka a good couple of months) Oscar had an impressively large crush on Gertrude, and thus a ‘showmance’ was born.

And then shot down about two minutes later when Gertrude revealed she only had platonic feelings for poor old Oscar.

What does this first case study show? Well, by taking your typical setup for a ‘showmance’, we can see how it doesn’t truly work out as many people claim. Perhaps the rumours we hear are one sided, or just made up to liven up the Green Room halfway through a harrowing Tech Week. According to case study one, ‘showmances’ do not exist because life onstage can be separated from life offstage, at least for some people…

And for the other people, I present case study two: same musical, different setup. We all know what it’s like, preparing for a show. The sweat, the tears, the many, many hours stuck with the same five people. Because you have nothing better to do, you start to form a bond, a family almost. Enter Asterix and Penelope (disclaimer: once again, not real names…). They didn’t play lovers, or anything of the sort, in fact Penelope was one of those incredibly popular, date-every-guy kind of gals. Asterix was (and still is) a complete dork. And yet, though simply trapped in the ensemble together, these two started to become more and more… familiar. Maybe it was the close proximity, or the fact that Asterix had finally finished puberty, but they started to get along in a manner most unexpected. And thus, a ‘showmance’ was born.

And it continued, to this very day, almost a year on and they are so incredibly in love it’s so crazy how people can fall so quickly.

So, what does case study two show? Well, perhaps a ‘showmance’ isn’t exactly what we expect it to be, it doesn’t manifest itself in a traditional way. Whilst it can most definitely happen, it’s maybe the idea of this off- and onstage difference that stops two people who play a romantic pair from actually falling for each other. Instead, a ‘showmance’ happens in unforced conditions, where two people spend so much time in close proximity that they do just fall.

At least, that’s what I can gather from my very limited sample group of the 20 people who always do my school play…

Ever had a ‘showmance’? Prove me wrong in the comments below!

 

ATB Drama School Packing List

Drama School Survival Guide - Part 1: Getting ready to rumble - BFA / MT Shopping List

Anyone who ever chose to go for a course in Acting, Drama, Musical Theatre etc. knows this weird feeling you have the weeks before your course start: these buzzing sensations of excitement and happiness on the daily, and yet you’re somewhat scared. I mean, leaving your hometown, family and school is pretty scary enough, but there is also that sudden realization that you might no longer be the strongest dancer, singer, and actor in town.

You might be asked to compete with 2nd and 3rd years and mostly you don’t know anyone. As the weeks pass, suddenly you are facing all sorts of burning questions: “What do I take with me?", "Am I good enough?" and “Do I have what it takes?".

Consider this series to be written by ATB Members for ATB Members, and we will try to address all your questions and worries. We will make sure you take the most of your course whether it is at a small school, or a highly recognized university; whether it’s in the US, the UK or anywhere else in this world.

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock / Getty Images

 

This week we’ll start with the basics, what to do to prepare, what to pack and some general advice to calm your nerves.

We collaborated with nearly a hundred ATB Members, and here it is:

THE ULTIMATE ATB PACKING LIST


For your Course

This is certainly only a guideline to help you with the process, most schools will give you some kind of an (often times) incomplete checklist, but obviously if in doubt, always go with what your school says and ask someone there. The Obvious:

-          Loose and fitted plain black clothing (i.e. jogging pants, leggings, t-shirts etc)

-          Jazz shoes/trainers make sure to try a couple of different ones on, some people prefer harder soled, some softer, some splitter and so on

-          Ballet shoes

-          Ballet tights/Leotards Make sure you have enough, you will be dancing a lot if you do MT and that might get really sweaty, start stocking up!!!

-          Tap shoes

-          running trainers  (indoor and outdoor) most schools won’t have special colour regulations here, but if you want to be on the safe side go for pure black

-          Girls- Character/practice skirt, character shoes (black or tan, with a heel of at least 2-3” (think LaDucas), Sports bra

-          Boys- black character shoes (smart brogues), Jockstrap/dance belt (look for something in either nude or black, but make sure you feel comfortable in it, it doesn’t help anyone if it’s perfectly tight, if you’re not going to wear it)

-          Bone prop (Especially UK Schools will ask you for that, it is a device to train your acting voice ) and Hand Mirror for your voice lessons

MUST-HAVEs

-          a pretty/cool/handy water bottle (keeping yourself hydrated is crucial)

-          A Bag where you can carry a lot with you (dancing stuff, sheet music and scripts do need a lot of space)

-          I found it useful to get packing cubes (google it), one for each style of dancing etc., that allows you to find the stuff you need much quicker and make sure no drinks or ink spills on your expensive shoes.

-          headache pills, vitamins, skin care, heating pads and cool packs for muscle pains, cough drops and any other things you can think of to secure your health

THINGS YOU MIGHT USEFUL

-    good speakers and headphones this might sound very random, but it actually might be one of the things of this list you will need the most. First of all, being able to just relax and calm down with an hour of Netflix, will energize you for all that is ahead of you, but more importantly you will be introduced to a lot of fantastic music, and you want to do the music justice and listen to it in a proper manner. It will also come in handy for warm-ups and practicing your routines with your classmate.

-    microphone/camera to record yourself while singing and acting to improve yourself, and later for potential self-tapes, when your phone isn’t doing a good enough job.

-    yoga strap - stretching is important and won’t kill you :)

-    some acting and theory books to read - we will be giving you a more specific list on that throughout the year

-    a piano or an app that allows you to fine tune your pitch

-    basic costume items sometimes, especially if you work on your own pieces, it might help you to have things like a hat, a scarf etc. at home to get into character.

-    songbooks and sheet music usually you will have some sort of a library in school, but having the score of Hamilton at home won’t only seem professional and prepared but also makes a pretty item on your shelves.

-    pointe shoes many schools don’t require pointe work, but if you’ve been trained on pointe shoes before, why not continue your training outside of class.

-    barre this might sound crazy, but getting yourself a small barre for your room allows you to train on your own, and they start at around $50 (think about getting a used one), it also makes a lovely decoration item for your room and shows everyone what your passion is.

Gender Neutral Makeup Essentials (as recommend by the make-up-artist of WICKED UK

This is like a cheap and easy starter set for people with less make-up experience (aka most guys). It works perfectly both for stage or camera work and I created that list for myself with the help of a make-up artist working at the London Production of Wicked. I keep everything in a small transparent bag (the ones that are actually made for taking on an airplane: they are handy, waterproof, and really cheap). I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with make-up, because more often than not you will have to apply your own make-up, and you better get some practice while you’re still in the learning phase.

-          facial moisturizer - this is crucial, all the sweating and any products will dry your skin. Keep it hydrated and there is less work for your make-up artists. There are tons of products for both guys and girls

-         mattifying powder - get one in your skin town or transparent, you will need it for the stage as well as camera work

-         oil blotting powder - these are awesome, they take away your sweat and work similar to the powder, but you just wipe over your face and you can go back on, you will find them on any movie set especially for male actors

-         concealer/cover stick - we all have our tiny imperfections, and especially if you have no makeup experience, a cover stick is much easier to use than any kind of foundation

-         large brush to apply powders

-         cosmetic sponge - always useful

-         hand cream - not really makeup, still very useful

-         sunscreen transparent spray (for filming/outdoor productions) - this is something I’ve discovered on set, these are sprays which you can just apply, they are completely invisible and no rubbing in required; Great between takes.

-         lip balm

-         toothpicks - there always might be some food stuck in between your teeth, and it can be really distracting to the audience

-         fixing spray - the very first thing to apply to your face, and everything stays where it should

-         fixing powder - if you want to be sure, add some fixing powder at the very end

-         Good deodorant - Did I mention how sweaty your course is gonna be?

More advanced (for girls or experienced guys):

Won’t explain anything here, you girls know your make-up best, but just to put it out there:

-         base / foundation makeup

-         blush

-         eyeliner

-         lipstick

-         eyeshadow

-         mascara

Stationaries - because come on who doesn’t love them?

-          extra pencil - trust me, you’re gonna need them.

-          a highlighter because you’re basically gonna live from scripts and sheet music

-          black binders, auditions might come up sooner than you think. I recommend getting two, one for sheet music, and one for scripts etc.

-          a couple of pretty notebooks (one for each class plus one for random ideas)

-          sticky notes make you look so professional ;)

For Your (New) Home

Dull but useful

-          Storage containers (or IKEA blue bags) Towels, one big and one small

-          Hangers

-          Stool or chair*

-          Laundry bag to hide those dirty socks and leotards

-          Bedside lamp*

-          Bin*

-          Dustpan and brush

-          Alarm for when your phone dies - trust me it happened to most of us

-          Plates, bowls and mugs

-          Spatula

-          Cutlery (and a sharp knife)

-          Can opener – tinned tomatoes are your new BFF

-          Corkscrew/bottle opener yeah, drinking is still important

-          Pans including frying pan

-          Food containers (for the fridge and cupboard)

-          Duvet, a double is a good idea

-          Duvet cover and sheets (x 2 sets)

-          Plants you can’t kill, and that won’t kill you. Guys leave your Audrey at home!!!

-          Rug to cover up that hideous carpet you might get in certain dorms or flats

-          Everyday Clothes - might be obvious but bring enough clothes for potential filming, nights at the theatre etc.

-          Toiletries - whatever you’re used to

* Might be already provided

To make your life more enjoyable

-          Cuddly toy to see you through the sad times, get out you’re Olafs and Pooh Bears

-          photos and posters for once homesickness kicks in

-          Fairy lights and candles (if allowed) for instant atmosphere

-          Humidifier and a steamer - must-haves for every singer

-          Washi tape (doesn’t mark the walls)

-          a mini fridge this is something almost everyone who lived in halls/dorm recommends

-          Lots of cushions, you’ll live in your bed whenever you’re not at the studios

-          Throw/blanket

-          you might want to get a big mirror to allow you to go through your dance routines once again

-          spare cables and chargers - these tend to always break when you really need them; having a couple of them in store will make your life so much easier.

-          talking about charging, listening to music and watching your routines on your phone will really drain its energy, a good power bank, will safe you when you don’t have a plug nearby.

 

This is everything we could think of, but obviously, not everyone is the same, we had really opposing viewpoints from literally “take everything, trust me you will need it” to “Bringing too much unnecessary not only makes it more likely to forget something, but it wastes time and energy to transport. Only bring as much as you need. “

So, the truth lays somewhere in between, go ahead and customize your personal list, it might be you have more or less space, more or less money, and so on…. But this list should serve as a starting point and provide some inspiration. 

Here is a selection of quotes from what I have collected, to make it a bit more personal:

"I had a bag of clothes just for theatre. The bag included my obvious dance clothes and shoes but other things like I had my own corset for period shows, long consecutive skirts, big flowy ones, cute flirts ones and of course all the super fun Halloween tights and shorts for dancing rehearsal. I also was great at making things as I needed them. We did Beauty and the Beast, and the plates were having spacing issues during dance rehearsal, so I used hula hoops and strapped them to their backs to get an idea of how much space they needed once they had their costumes. College was where I learned to live a minimalistic lifestyle. I learned quickly that everyone you meet at college brags about all the roles they had and the shows they were part of, but most of them have never been on crew, or built sets, made costumes or been in the pit. Having been on every aspect (required on my high school and at desales) made surviving easier. I didn't bring anything from home with me, except my music note bedspread my grandmother made. “- Deanna Young

“Bring a mini fridge that you can stock with food/drinks that remind you of home or foods you love! But also put some fruits and veggies in there, love yourself. A pitcher with a water filter will save you soooooooo much money on plastic water bottles. I suggest getting Amazon Prime, especially with the student discount, it makes life easier!” - Ashley Offmann

“Pack a bunch of nice clothes/things you look really good in. You're going to be performing a lot and (at least for me) I'm one level less anxious when I have my outfit together.” - RJ Christian

“For packing you definitely need jazz shoes and ballet shoes and pointe shoes. Being a theatre student, your best friend is to always have tea and water and cough drops! I don't have a roommate, so I brought all my posters and playbills but really, bring pictures of friends and family because theatre can be a hard major and you need to remember all the love and support you have!” - Marcus Thomas

“For starters...make sure you're allowed to have some of these things. A Keurig sounds nice if you're a coffee drinker (caffeine yuck) but it might actually be a banned item. 

"In the movies, dorms are these awesome spaces. Room for everything. In real life it's nothing like that. If you're going to get a humidifier get the smallest one you can get. The rooms are small and outlet space is at a premium. 

"Speaking of - curved surge protectors are the way to go. Something like Flexigon on Amazon. 

"Invest in a good mattress topper. Even getting one of those foam egg crate things. Dorm mattresses are evil and do not do a body good.

"Get sticky poster tac. My first dorm room had block walls. Couldn't use push pins for my posters.

"Unless you're renting from the school don't go halvsies on anything with your roommate. That way you know what belongs to whom if one of you leaves mid-year or decide not to room together the next year. Instead talk beforehand and decide who is bringing what. This goes for traditionally shared stuff like fridges, microwaves, and TVs.

"Get a smartkleen ball. They ionize the water in the washer to clean your clothes. They last over 300 washes. 

"Oh, and don't get one of those expensive shower caddies from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. A plastic basket with a handle from the dollar store suited me just fine.” - Kristin Márie Veronica

“Must haves (health-related): steamer, all manner of sports guards (e.g. knee, elbow, ankle), all manner of heating and ice packs for those sore muscles, all manner of heat ointments, sports tape, compression gear (I slept in them a lot of the time to improve blood circulation and the promote faster healing), all manner of medical ointments (hot and cold), a gym roller and hockey ball for deep tissue massage

"I made a (vile-tasting but incredibly effective) concoction of apple cider vinegar, raw ginger, fresh lemon and chopped garlic which I drank every day to keep the bugs away. Add a teaspoon of it to juice every day!

"Must haves (performing related): video editing software, audio editing software, a selfie-stick with a tripod (for self-tapes), a keyboard app on your phone

"Must haves (sanity related): a really good set of earphones to block out all the noise and drama” - EuJin Hwang

Last Words

 Last but not least, everyone at ATB really believes in you, and we know you’re gonna have an awesome time wherever you are headed, that’s why we collected some words of encouragement and advice for you:

“I think it helped me tremendously having a sense of purpose for my art. I am very fortunate that my program was designed in such a way that we had to think about what we wanted our art to stand for, and to explore any manner of expression.

"I also think it is EXTREMELY important to become aware of how you need to take care of ALL aspects of yourself – physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I saw so many people who were talented, but who did not have a healthy way of dealing with the pressures of a career in the performing arts. This is why I have embarked on a journey to help actors develop a “Healthy Inner Life Practice”. In this way, you build a career that you own, that grows and that stands a much better chance of being sustainable. And if you have a healthy inner life, there’s a high chance that the work you create as a performer will also be more authentic, more connected and touch more people.

"Talent will only get you that far. The rest of sheer and deliberate hard work. You can’t meet the Universe half-way. You have to meet the Universe 99% of the way. You have to look under every rock, explore every possible nook and cranny to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. And the final 1% that you can’t control, you let it go.

"Find your OWN WAY to stand out. Compete with yourself. I went to school with 2 identical twins and if you want to talk about identical casting, they would be it. But even they found a way to shine as individuals. So, the rest of us who don’t have our identical twins on our program have absolutely no excuse. The thing is – what is probably the most unique thing about you. There is NO ONE else like you on the planet even though the industry is going to want to pigeon-hole you immediately. That’s OK. There is enough time for that once you are working. For now, find the unique story only YOU can tell.

"Finally, your time in drama school is limited. Don’t waste ANY opportunity. Show up. Every single day. Take care of your shit and don’t bring it into the room. Stay present and when magic happens, you’ll be there to see and learn and experience it.”  - EuJin Hwang

“Don’t give up! You’ll be rejected over and over again but it’s so worth it when you get an opportunity to do what you love!” - Gemma Forsyth, Australian/American Actress ( Mako Mermaids, Akoni, Scrap)

 It’s okay to be nervous. My first musical theatre class was terrifying and I thought I was going to pee my pants. I told myself that if this was what I wanted to do I would just have to deal with it. It ended up being my favorite class! We’re only allowed to take it twice but the teacher is letting me take it a third time because it’s just so much fun! It’s ok to be scared, but you shouldn’t be afraid to try things that are new and different! Just be yourself and have fun, make it your own.” - Rachel Blugrind

 “A piece of advice would be to keep on top of the work, if you need help, ASK! There are so many times where I was stuck and didn’t ask for help which lowered my grade. As well as this, positivity is key. A negative attitude is no fun and to be a performer you need to be willing to push through the tough times and try and think of positive things through each situation that you may come across!” - Sammy Terry

 “You have to want whatever your goals are because they are truly spilling out of you. You have to know what you want and go after it fiercely. My dreams weren’t always theatre based, but I had this unignorable need to create art. Find what you love, hold it close, and surround yourself with people who lift you up!” -Chris Medlin - Mean Girls on Broadway

 With that, I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this article happen, it wasn’t possible to feature every single one in this edition, but there is so much more advice that will help many people, so I decided to make a series out of this. If you have any advice to share, or you have questions or worries yourself and recommendations for future topics, feel free to comment below or get in touch with me. If you know of any freshmen, go ahead and share this source with them, because I believe it sometimes really helps to remind yourself that you’re not alone in your situation and to get some advice from the experienced.   

The International Thespian Festival

Recent studies show that 99% of the people currently reading this are either in high school or have at one point attended one, the other 1 percent is Michael Kape who’s older than any high school in the world, and there's a good chance that if you have an alma mater they had a theatre department of some sort, whether that means you performed the same version of Grease 4 years in a row or were the very first high school ever to perform Cats (Either way I feel sorry for you). There’s a possibility you may know about and be an alumni of the International Thespian Society, and I’ll be honest I don’t really know much about what that means. I think if you get enough points in the society it helps you get into a college or something, but what I do know is being in the thespian society grants you access to some of the incredibly cool events they do over the year, such as attend your states thespian festival no matter where you are across the US. However, I much more prefer the big event to end all high school theatre events that take place at the end of the school year and what a coincidence, it’s beginning right now on June 25th, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska! I am course talking about the International Thespian Festival.

Photo by m-gucci/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by m-gucci/iStock / Getty Images

So, allow me to help those of you who have never attended this festival try to understand what exactly it is. I want you to imagine 4,000+ theatre kids on a college campus and, before half of you scream, “That’s the best idea ever!” while everyone else prepares for the apocalypse, let me tell you, it’s some of the most fun you can ever have as a high schooler. I mean, after you finally figure out how to get back to your dorm after walking around in circles for three hours. The rest is great though.

The History
I guess since I sort of specialize in history with this blog I should tell you how all of this began and at what point someone decided this was a good idea, and no for those of you who read my “History of the Tonys” article I promise this time I’ll just cover the event and not the entire history of theatre and the world along with it. So, The International Thespian Festival began in 1941 at Indiana University, the festival was then briefly suspended because of World War 2 but held again in 1947 and 1949. However, the next ITF did not take place until 1952 and was then held every other year until 1982 when it became an annual event. The festival has had multiple homes in Indiana as well as where it is currently, The University of Lincoln Nebraska, and has been there since 1995. However, in order to accommodate more students, ITF is coming back home to Indiana and the IU Bloomington campus in 2020 which means a lot less driving for me.

 Alright, so now you should have a general idea what this thing is and where it comes from but where it’s held and who holds it barely matters, what matters is what happens during the event and from out of control rave-like dances to people who will teach you how to dance like you’re in the cast of Kinky Boots it’s like nothing else. There is so much to do at the festival!

Workshops
Well, speaking of workshops, I mentioned the Kinky Boots dance workshop, but it’s worth noting that this year it’s a combination of Kinky Boots and another recent dance heavy musical that has the single best name I have ever heard: “The Kinky Showman”. If that doesn’t send whole lots of weird messages to your head such as, “I wonder what Hugh Jackman would look like in heels” I don’t know what will. These workshops are held be teachers and professionals from across the nation. My favorites are definitely the many improv workshops offered on basic games to learning how to improvise Shakespeare, they always end up being quite a bit of fun. There’s also workshops on how to play a believable villain, and how to turn one button down shirt into 20 different costumes. You’ll find that no matter what you do, whether it be act, dance, sing, or work in the dark on the technical side, there is something for you.

Festival after Dark
I mentioned before the dances which allow you to dress in different themes and relax and move a little after a very busy day. Thespians will get into their sharpest suits and ties on Tuesday and show their Lincoln pride by wearing blue and gold to the dances on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday the color code continues with a black out honoring some of the often unsung heroes on Thursday and  then wearing all red on Friday to celebrate Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, the organization founded to fight against the AIDS virus.

Individual Events/ Showcase
At the state thespian festivals, I told you about earlier you have the chance to audition for individual events through monologues, songs, etc. If you receive a high enough score you proceed on to showing off your I.E. at the International Thespian Festival where you have the chance to get your final score and show it off at a showcase taking place at the end of the week.

 Next Generation Works
Whether you write plays, musicals, critique works, or work in film, you have the chance to submit new works to be developed at the International Thespian Festival. Winners will have their new plays or musicals or etc produced, and others at the event have the ability to audition for them.

 The Auditions
Of course, being a theatre event there is bound to be some auditions of some sort and because colleges send out representatives to the festival, juniors have the chance to go ahead and audition for the college. Also, this year the touring cast of Dear Evan Hansen is having auditions for older high school students at the festival. In addition, through workshops you most certainly have the ability to practice and improve your auditions.

The Performances---Chapter Selects/Freestyle
However, it’s undeniable that while there’s plenty to do whether it be wander off campus to see a movie at the Lincoln Grand Cinema or visit what my school has deemed the “Black Market”, a nearby thrift store, or find the book store that’s home to many adorable felines or just attend the many workshops and activities provided by the Thespian Society. the best part of attending the festival is the many performances offered, and while the main stages are the biggest performances, there’s also a ton of other shows you can see at the event for free in your spare time such as the chapter selects which different performances taken by a high school theatre to be shown at one of the theatres on campus. The following is a list of all of the shows being presented as chapter selects at the festival this year.

Waylen - Owensboro High School, Troupe 3161, Owensboro, Kentucky

A Thousand Cranes- Centennial High School, Troupe 7997, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Becky's New Car - Flower Mound High School, Troupe 6154, Flower Mound, Texas

The Final Dress Rehearsal - Pennsbury High School, Troupe 830, Fairless Hills,Pennsylvania

12 Hour Life - Pleasant Valley High School, Troupe 856, Bettendorf, Iowa

Check Please: Take 2 - Queen Creek High School, Troupe 6152, Queen Creek, Arizona

The Bible In 30 Minutes...Or Less - Pomona High School, Troupe 4203, Arvada, Colorado

13 - Perry High School, Troupe 7424, Gilbert, Arizona

Picnic - Hopewell Valley Central High School, Troupe 7964, Pennington, New Jersey

Down Came the Rain - Caddo Parish Magnet High School, Troupe 3594, Shreveport,Louisiana

The Machine - Riverton High School, Troupe 1887, Riverton, Wyoming

Aida - Rock Ridge High School, Troupe 8104, Ashburn, Virginia

Every Brilliant Thing - Smith-Cotton High School, Troupe 4261, Sedalia, Missouri

Stupid F Bird - Patuxent High School, Troupe 6194, Lusby, Maryland

The Bible in 30 Minutes...Or Less - Olathe North High School, Troupe 3310, Olathe, Kansas

Be the Light - Omaha Burke High School, Troupe 4138, Omaha, Nebraska

Stressed - Russellville High School, Troupe 7260, Russellville, Arkansas

The Women of Lockerbie - Cambridge-Isanti High School, Troupe 8406, Cambridge, Minnesota

Waylen - Northwestern High School, Troupe 3924, Kokomo, Indiana

Grandma Duck is Dead - Paul M. Dorman High School, Troupe 3322, Roebuck, South Carolina

Shipwrecked - American Leadership Academy, Troupe 7597, Spanish Fork, Utah

Digging Up the Boys - Great Falls High School, Troupe 1364, Great Falls, Montana

Bury the Dead - Bridgeport High School, Troupe 7549, Bridgeport, West Virginia

21 Chump Street - Grimsley High School, Troupe 7993, Greensboro, North Carolina

The Yellow Boat - Fullerton Union High School, Troupe 2498, Fullerton, California

The Shape of the Grave - Northwest Rankin High School, Troupe 5727, Flowood, Mississippi

20 Play in 40 Minutes - Singapore American School, Troupe 3674, Singapore

Laundry and Bourbon - Glencoe High School, Troupe 7125, Hillsboro, Oregon

As well as chapter selects, you can also see shows never seen before written by someone involved with the high school to be performed for the very first time as a part of the Freestyle Theatre at festival, those shows this year are the following...

 

 Speak Up! - Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Troupe 5524, Long Beach, California

Dark Road - Los Alamitos High School, Troupe 7944, Los Alamitos, California

A New York Minute - Nuview Bridge Early College High School, Troupe 8117, Nuevo, California

18 Plays in 30 Minutes - Denver School of the Arts, Troupe 5869, Denver, Colorado

Radium Girls - Hayden Catholic High School, Troupe 7275, Topeka, Kansas

Under the Radar - East High School, Troupe 2162, Cheyenne, Wyoming

It's Hansel and Gretel - Alice High School, Troupe 5191, Alice, Texas

Lunch - Dandan Middle School, Hopwood Junior High School, San Antonio Middle School, Troupes 89328, 88755, 88752, Northern Marianas Islands

Chairs - John R. Mott High School, Troupe 417, Postville, Iowa

The Mad Breakfast - Sam Barlow High School, Troupe 1145, Gresham, Oregon

Cycle of Life: A Devised Work - New Kent High School, Troupe 7644, New Kent, Virginia

LOVE - Henry J. Kaiser High School, Troupe 6721, Fontana, California

Gardens - Council Rock High School North, Troupe 5028, Newtown, Pennsylvania

Spontaneous Combustion - South Dade Senior High School, Troupe 3637, Homestead, Florida

The Sibling Support Group - Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, Troupe 8334, Scottsdale, Arizona

Overtones - Brownell Talbot School, Troupe 8093, Omaha, Nebraska

Crimson Thread - Shadow Ridge High School, Troupe 7547, Surprise, Arizona

The Mainstage Performances
Out of all the performances, by far, there isn’t any bigger or better than the ones presented on Lincoln’s prestigious main stages, The Kimball and The Lied. A show is determined whether it goes to The Kimball or The Leid based on the size of the show selected. In order for a show to be able to perform on a main stage it must first be adjudicated by one of the representatives of the International Thespian Society. This year high schools from all around the country fought for only 11 spots to perform at the festival. Those adjudicated in the fall were given the first 8 spots and then 3 more were chosen from those adjudicated in the spring. Having a show selected to perform on of the main stages in Nebraska is an incredibly difficult task as well as a huge deal. This year also marks the first year in a while that saw a change in Monday's opening show, what is usually a cabaret featuring Broadway stars as well as high schoolers who auditioned to perform in the show has been replaced with an award winning documentary about the high school that took The Color Purple to Nebraska in 2013, called Purple Dreams. The other shows will be shown throughout the rest of the week.

(I have also reached out to a few people involved in these shows for an interview to give you a better idea what a massive task as well as a massive reward it is to be able to perform on the main stage.)

Playingon the Kimball and truly being the first performance to open the festival is Blue Valley North High School’s production of One Man, Two Guvnors, the play is an adaptation of the play Servant of two masters and tells the story and antics of a man employed by two people at once who has to keep the two from meeting each other and finding out his secret.

One Man, Two Guvnors performs at the Kimball Theatre Monday June 25h.

Playing secondly on the Kimball is a musical based off of celtic folktales put to celtic music. It is Paola High School’s production of Celtic Tales.

Celtic Tales performs at the Kimball Theatre Tuesday June 26th.

Opening the Lied stage as the first non movie performance its the story of unlikely hero Jack Kelly who organizes a band of newsboys and a spunky reporter to show the world just what they can do as they go on strike for fair wages, its of course Disney’s Newsies. I interviewed a member of the technical crew to tell you more about what’s it’s been like being apart of the show is Jorah Heitz

When I asked Jorah, who went in 2016 with 42nd Street what has been different with that show and Newsies she responded with

“I was a level three tech in 42nd Street which meant having a lot less responsibilities and a lot less time spent at rehearsals.”

When I asked her what her responsibilities as a technical member is, she responded with,

“I am a deck chief which means a lot less paperwork and other preshow responsibilities that come with being an assistant stage manager. My responsibilities are making sure other technical members are near me and ready for their cues, and when told by the stage manager to give them their cues.”

Disney’s Newsies performs at the Lied Theatre Tuesday June 26th.

Based on the book, and the two Disney movies of the same name, it’s an all new musical about a mother and a daughter who find out just what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes when they switch bodies and have to figure out how to switch back. Its Bradford High School back again to the main stage for the 8th year in a row with the pilot production of Disney’s Freaky Friday playing on the Kimball stage and here to tell you more about this new production is Colin Swanson

When I asked Colin what it’s been like being a part of Freaky Friday he replied with

“it has been so much fun being a part of Freaky Friday!! I love the show and I love the music and I love that Disney Channel is getting involved and that they are going to be filming us in interviewing us throughout our whole process”

And when I asked him what he was most excited about taking Freaky Friday to ITF he responded with,

“The most exciting part about bringing Freaky Friday to the festival is that we get to premier Freaky Friday for Disney and that Disney Channel is coming along with us on our journey”

Disney’s Freaky Friday performs at the Kimball Theatre on Wednesday June 27th.

An incredibly wealthy lady returns to her old home town with a dangerous offer to reward whoever can kill the man who got her pregnant, this showing of The Visit will be performed by Edina High School on the Leid

The Visit performs at the Lied Theatre on Wednesday, June 27th.

Imagine a world where it’s a privilege to pee and you have the setting of the hilarious musical comedy with a production showing on the Kimball stages by Pittsburg High Schools, Urinetown!

Urinetown performs at the Kimball Theatre on Thursday June 28th

Based on Tim Burton's movie of the same name is a heartwarming musical about family, friends, and what truly is fact and fiction join Will the son of the storytelling Edward Bloom as he tries to figure out what of his father's life and the stories he’s told are real and what isn’t. It’s the Illinois all-state production of Big Fish at the Lied center, and here to tell you more about the musical is an ensemble member of the production, Nolan Rice

When I asked Nolan what it was like having to wait to see if Big Fish would be able to perform at the festival he had this to say,

“I remember being in the rehearsal room when Wilson (our director) was telling us about the Nationals experience. From there, all we were able to do was look forward to our closing performance at Illinois State University and wait for the six or seven judges to see if we would make it. Funny enough, all but one judge missed their flight to the performance, so it all relied on one judge! Receiving nearly perfect scores, we found out one night, then discussed how we would meet up again weeks later. All there was support and love for being around each other again”

When I asked him what he was most excited about taking the show to Nebraska he also had this to say,

“we’ve been so excited for meeting new people at nationals and learning new things, that I’m basically forgetting that I AM in fact performing in front of the whole country. I’ve been studying theatre for the last few years, and the greatest thing that I think can apply to performing Big Fish is that we are all here to tell a story. ESPECIALLY in a story like Big Fish, which is about when you have nothing left in the world, the greatest thing you have is the power to make someone smile through storytelling.”

Big Fish performs at the Lied Theatre Thursday June 28th

A woman astronomer in the 19th century dealing with prejudice, family troubles, and the possibility of love. Its Mount Carmel Academy’s performance of Silent Sky on the Kimball stage

Silent Sky performs at the Kimball Theatre on Friday, June 29th.

Experience the tragic and touching tale of Alice Murphy, set in the mountains of North Carolina it’s the pilot production of Bright Star performed on The Lied stage by West Orange High School and here to tell you more is the actress playing Alice herself, Kassidy Weideman

When I asked Kassidy what is was like piloting the musical she responded with this to say,

“Piloting Bright Star was one of the most INCREDIBLE opportunities I’ve ever had. Bright Star was one of my favorite musicals before we found out we were doing it so I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was”

When I asked her what new challenges were thrown at her doing Bright Star she replied with,

Bright Star is such an incredibly realistic show especially since it is based on a true story. Having to incorporate the realism into the actions and emotions on stage was definitely the biggest aspect that changed me as an actor and performer!”

Bright Star performs at The Lied Theatre on Friday, June 29th.

A fictional spelling bee set in the fiction Putnam County, it’s of course the comedy musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performed by the Denver Schools of the Arts on the Kimball.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee performs at the Kimball Theatre on Saturday, June 30th.

Stephen Gregg renowned playwright returns to tell the chilling story of a dangerous event and disappearance in a theatre. Nothing else can be said about because I am legally obliged to not tell the secrets of what this Lied center play holds. It is Olathe South High School’s production of Trap, and here to tell you more about it is the director himself David Hastings

When I asked him what was it like deciding to do Trap and deciding to have it adjudicated for the festival, he responded with,

“It was easy. I love Stephen Gregg’s plays. The impulse from the beginning—since it was a new play—was to get it in front of as many people as possible.”

And when I asked him what he thought about closing the festival he responded with,

“I’m most excited to watch my students see the Lied Center from the stage, as well as watching them perform on the 30th. I hadn’t really thought much about closing the festival. We are excited, and we are humbled to have this opportunity. We can’t thank EdTA and ITF enough for giving us this opportunity. But for now, the play’s not over. We have our work to do. Our rehearsals are finished. Our set is ready to go in our truck. We have two more performances in Kansas City. And then … our goal is to scare our audience to death.”

Trap performs at the Lied Theatre on Saturday June, 30th.
So there you have it! From star studded performances to incredible learning opportunities, The International Thespian Festival is the way to be and while it’s too late to go this year. Even more incredible shows and similar workshops and almost identical opportunities will be available next year!

Well, I got a campus to explore and shows to see and so many things to do, so until next time, I’m Taylor Lockhart and thanks for reading the blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Tony Worship

Jonathan Fong

In light of the recent Tony Awards, I just thought I’d write something that has been on my mind for a while. I’ve seen this happening a lot, in both community and professional theatre, and I thought it should be addressed

No, it’s not about people judging whether what won should’ve won. There has been enough debate about The Band’s Visit winning everything already, as there always has been and will be when a show sweeps the Tonys, and I’m not going to open that can of worms. In fact, what I’m going to talk about isn’t really something specific to this year nor any year in the past.
I’m going to talk about something else. I call it Tony worship. No, I’m not talking about those who have shrines to Tony from West Side Story in their rooms. I neither confirm nor deny the presence of one in mine. I’m talking about people treating the Tony Awards, and everything associated with or related to them, as the entirety of theatre itself.


Every year, I see dozens of small-scale productions, some community/amateur and some professional, of musicals mimic the Tony-winning set or costume designs of that musical’s original Broadway production. Every year I see other productions attempt to copy the original choreography, with varying degrees of success, of the original Broadway production. Every year, I see, whether online or in person, dozens of performances of the same songs from the musical theatre canon sung in the exact same way - intonation, tone, delivery, you name it. 
And every year, when I ask the person in charge of set design or the performer why, they say the same variations of the same thing - ‘(insert-famous-theatre-person-here) did it and won a Tony for it’.


Let’s ignore for a second the copyright issues which come with copying things such as set designs or costume designs (you don’t get the rights to copy a production’s set design when you get the rights to a musical, in case you were unaware). Let’s also ignore the real risk of doing things like mimicking an actor’s vocal tone in a song without proper vocal training to do so, which can actually do harm to your voice.


Thing is, yes, they won a Tony for it. But do the Tonys define theatre? Do they define your production and what direction it should take? Do they define you as an actor?
Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel - they’re all incredibly talented actors. No one’s doubting that Andy Blankenbuehler or Christopher Gattelli are wonderful choreographers, neither is anyone doubting the amazing designs of David Zinn or Mimi Lien. They’re all clearly good at what they do and the fact that they won Tonys for their work is proof of that. But at the end of the day, what they did was take the material given to them - librettos, plot synopses, the like - and interpreted and developed it in their own unique ways. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone’s supposed to do?


As actors, choreographers, directors, designers, or whatever role you might have in the theatre, isn’t it our job to make our own interpretations of what we’re given? To creatively stretch the boundaries and go beyond the text or the libretto? Why are we defining what we should do by what others have done, and not the limits of our own creativity? Why are we copying other’s creative work just to feel secure in what we do?


I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek inspiration in any way from other sources. Inspiration from others is one of the most valuable things you can get in the arts - it can offer insights you might have never otherwise considered. And I most certainly would be lying if I said I’d never looked at what other artists have done as guidance.


But please, for crying out loud, don’t just copy Sutton Foster’s Tony-winning performance in Anything Goes for your recital, or the minimalist set design of the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd (yes, that actually happened) for your local community theatre production of the show. Don’t just sing Defying Gravity ‘that way’ because ‘Idina Menzel did it’, and don’t light the stage or design your props ‘that way’ because ‘that Broadway show did it and won a Tony’. That’s not justification for a creative cop-out. Yes, they won a Tony for it, but they won it not for copying what someone else did, but because what they did was original and creative.
Be creative. Be brave. Be theatrical. Stretch the boundaries; don’t be content with being ‘safe’ with what others have successfully done. Make your work as an artist unique and your own, not a mere imitation of what someone won a Tony for.
Don’t let the Tonys alone define what theatre is for you.

The "other" Tony Awards

Award season is officially over. Starting in early April with the Lucille Lortel nominations announced on April 3rd, and ending with the 72nd Tony Awards on June 10th, what an interesting season it has been. However, I’m not here to talk about what happened last night at the Tony awards cause honestly, I am not the person to give that review of what happened, and I am writing this before they occur and only wish I could predict the future. Because of this, I am going to talk about the importance and impact of the second most important award season to a seventeen-year-old high schooler…

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by blanaru/iStock / Getty Images

The high school musical theatre awards!
I have been so fortunate to go to a high school that has been involved in these awards that take place all around the country, just to celebrate what young people are doing in the theatre scene. I am going to talk about all the great experiences I have gained by participating in these awards as a member of a nominated production, and why every high schooler should have the opportunity to at least go to these awards as an audience member.

Community
The first time I went to my region’s award ceremony, I was there all day. My older sister was in the opening number, so I didn’t go to it already in costume and prepared to represent my show. This was the case for many other people there, and because the theatre didn’t have enough dressing room to accommodate hundreds of students getting changed at the same time, we all had to walk over to a public outdoor park and use the restrooms there to get ready. This created the ability to learn about what shows people were doing, who they were playing, their background with theatre, and so much more. It was truly amazing to see people just getting to really connect on a more personal level because of theatre.

A few months ago, I was at a college audition and I met people there who I was able to talk about what happened at the awards ceremony and the performances we got to experience, and I knew of them because of this wonderful occasion.

 Gain Knowledge of other Musicals
Many high schoolers are having their first experience with musicals during their years at high school, and so they have limited knowledge about shows other than the ones they have performed in. At the ceremony, you get to see wonderful shows perform a number, wonderful soloists perform a medley of multiple musicals, and it allows people who have a very small pool of knowledge grow. Many people would ask me what the shows were about due to the songs being performed, and then would want to go and listen to them and get to know them better. It is amazing to see someone discover a new musical.

Gain Performance Experience
I have been so fortunate to be able to be a part of a production which was nominated for Best Musical, which gave my entire cast the opportunity to perform in front of 2,000 theatre lovers. People still talk about what it felt like to get a standing ovation from that size of a crowd and know that they had touched some people’s hearts that day. Even people who were in the audience still talk about it. This sort of performance experience, if you’re so lucky to get to have, can make such an impact on a high schooler’s life, that it may even change their course of life. It is truly remarkable.

These are just a few of the amazing things that a student, or anyone, can get from attending or being a part of the “Tony Awards for High Schoolers.” Put aside the competition part and look to see the impact that it is putting on real people who still can take these opportunities. Many people want to get rid of these programs because it creates some tension between the schools that win and don’t win, but I say let them stay for the impact that it allows the students to have.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Gary

I was at my former high school’s annual school play the other night and memories came flooding back of the shows I did in high school. And, of course, when you think of previous shows you did, you might remember your directors and those who helped put on those shows.       

When I think back to my shows, one person in particular stands out. That person would be Gary.

In grade ten, I wasn’t even considering joining my school’s drama program. I didn’t have anything against the program, a lot of my friends were in it, I just didn’t think it was for me. However, the theatre program was putting on “The Very Great Grandson of Sherlock Holmes”, a hilarious parody on Sherlock Holmes where his grandson is a bumbling idiot.

This show needed a butler and, being my teacher, Gary knew me somewhat well and thought I fit the role very well. The Butler was a character who had every line come out witty, sarcastic, and sharp.

After some thinking, I decided to go for it. I thought the drama program would be “something fun to do.” I did not realize how much it would mean to me throughout the rest of my high school life.

Since I was the only one going directly for The Butler, I got it. However, Gary was right and I fit the role very well -- the snappy comebacks, the hilarious one liners, and the dripping sarcasm is exactly my type of humour. The production was a success and I was hooked on the drama program.       

Me as the Butler

Me as the Butler

I went on to play in two more shows under the direction of Gary. I was Mr. Drysdale in “The Beverly Hillbillies” and Professor Dante in “Get Smart.”

He was also a teacher for a good chunk of my classes from grades 7-10. Sure, he had his fair share of students that didn’t like him but he developed a very strong bond with a lot of his students, and a lot of the grades below me especially came to really like him.

The year after I graduated, which was 2013, Gary moved away to teach at another school. Many of his students were saddened -- he had not only been an amazing teacher, but also even a friend to his students. He had visited a former student when he was in the hospital, and just had a general love for all his students, both current and former.

It was late March of 2015 when he started to have some health concerns, he had something from when he was younger that had never caused issues until that point.

In the coming weeks, he would be admitted to hospital. On April 15, he passed.

The students from school were devastated. I heard from younger students and friends with younger siblings what a weird and scary day of school that was. The halls were eerily silent and people were crying. There was an outpouring of love and support for his mother and fiancé in the coming days and the students and teachers watched a livestream of his memorial service in the gymnasium.

Being at my old high school’s play brought back these memories, and it was there that I realized that not only had it been three years but I missed the actual date. I’m so glad I was reminded of this yet again.

Gary drew me into the school’s theatre program. He was a great director, teacher, and an all-around great person who was easy to connect to. He is still greatly missed by many.