Seniors cast, direct student actors in annual production

Sophomore actors Cameron Andrea (left) and Lexi Nielsen (right) “My inspiration for theatre started when I saw my first musical. The passion, the musical, the love. They all made me want to be up there and inspire that one kid in the audience who thought maybe he wasn’t good enough,” Andrea said. Photo courtesy of Carson Bierman.

There was a chaotic chatter in the air charged with nervousness and excitement in B160 on February 14th. Some are doing a last minute run through of their lines, some are scrambling backstage to make sure their props are in place but at 7 p.m. the lights dim and it’s time for the first group to take the stage.

Getting started

The process for Senior Scenes begins at the end of each school year when the producers are chosen. The role of the producers is given to junior East Theatre thespians, and the responsibilities include the more technical aspects of producing a show such as setting up auditions, figuring out which seniors are doing what scenes, and dictating the order in which the scenes perform.

“[We voted on] the Senior Scenes Executive Producer[s] at the end of last school year with the Honors ETT board, which is East Theater Thespians. [Amy Keca and I] are the only juniors who were Honors Thespians at the time so it kind of just got passed down to us,” executive producer junior Carson Bierman said.

At the start of the next school year each senior that has been a thespian for several years can submit two scripts for consideration, then in November auditions take place and scenes are cast.

During her freshman year at East, senior Madison Fox would attend the East Theatre productions but was too shy to participate until her sophomore year, when she finally made her East Theatre debut by performing in Senior Scenes. This year, Fox’s senior scene Appropriate Audience Behavior is a one scene play that showcases the disruptive behavior that an audience should not partake in while watching a theatre performance.

“Since [sophomore year], I’ve done every single show at East Theatre in tech, or in show … I’m really happy to be wrapping up my theatre career with Senior Scenes because that’s how I started,” Fox said.

While casting her scene Fox looked for people with personality and energy and with a cast of nine people getting everyone together proved to be surprisingly difficult. However, as a seasoned East Theatre Thespian Fox was able to empathize with her cast when they had scheduling conflicts or difficulty memorizing lines.

“I spent a lot of time looking at different scenes. I knew I wanted to do a comedy because I felt like that would be the most fun to rehearse and perform. That one stuck out to me. It had a lot of parts and it was actually a thirty-minute scene, like a one-act play that I cut down, and so it was nice because I got to edit it to be how I wanted. So I just thought it was really funny, so it stood out to me,” Fox added.

In her sophomore year at East senior Elizabeth Nold participated in the East Theatre production of 12 Angry Jurors. The memory sticks out to her because it was the show that solidified her passion for theatre and acting. The scene that Nold directed for Senior Scenes was from Little Women.

“[Little Women] was one of the first movies that I saw and one of the first movie musicals that I ended up seeing. I really thought that the story of love between two sisters was really moving and passionate and I figured everyone could relate to it because everyone loves someone so deeply,” Nold said.

Responsibility and independence

From auditions and casting it is up to the directors to make sure that their scene is executed properly. The performance is used as a platform for the senior directors to showcase how much they’ve learned their entire time in East Theatre, so seniors are completely responsible for their own scenes and for the performance and rehearsal of their cast. Sponsors Nicole Chandler and Kathleen Belovsky are there as a safety net for the directors should they need it.

“We simply are there to act as support to the directors if they need anything. We can give feedback on scenes. We can give our thoughts on blocking or casting. If students are having difficulty with students attending rehearsal or things we’ll step in. Everyone signs a contract, so they know what the rehearsal expectations are, but if people aren’t upholding their end of the contract we’ll step in,” Chandler said.

Learning from Chandler and Belovsky is something that Nold credits in the execution of her scene.

“I think just taking direction from [Chandler] and [Belovsky], whether it be working on painting sides in the shop or being on stage and getting critiques, really helped me shape what I wanted my scene to be and how I could use their techniques to help direct my own scene,” Nold said.

This year senior Isabelle Dale’s scene had to be cut. As a result, one of the actors in her scene had to be recast. Senior Lauren Moon was recast in “Without Love” from Hairspray directed by seniors Alec Ludacka and Abby Hubbard, a week before the final performance. Moon has been a part of East Theatre in tech crew and this was her first time stepping into an acting role.

“It’s different, obviously, because it’s a completely different plane from making the environment, to helping make it real, I guess, like giving it a lot more life then a set would,” Moon said. “I didn’t make a whole lot of closer friends when I would do tech crew but with Senior Scenes I already feel closer to the people that I’m working with because we’ve gotten to talk and get to know each other and create music and create this whole scene. It’s just such a different experience. It’s much more intimate, [and] I make more friends.”

The final performance

There were eleven scenes that performed this year, ranging from the comedic The Play That Goes Wrong co-directed by senior Brenna Murphy and senior Diana Morales to the hopeful and melodic “A Soft Place to Land” from Waitress, co-directed by seniors McKenna Kreiling and Kaitlyn Grove.

“It’s definitely the most number of seniors we’ve had. This [year‘s seniors] selected a lot more musical numbers then we’ve had in prior years. We just have a lot more students that are interested in musical theater this year, so there [are] a lot more opportunity for singers,” Chandler said.

The musical numbers came from various shows ranging from comedies. Among the songs were “I Know It’s Today” from Shrek The Musical directed by senior Lucie Kupres to the more serious “Mama Who Bore Me” from Spring Awakening directed by senior Jaylyn McDonald.

For many, the Senior Scenes performance is an opportunity for growth. Sophomore Trevor Knight was eager to participate because of the experience as an actor that he would gain. Knight was cast in senior Ceci Carrington’s scene A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Fifth Period.

“There’s a lot less pressure compared to some of the other productions and I knew that I would make it in … the way that it’s set up, if you audition, you’re almost guaranteed make it,” Knight said.

With the creative freedom that the directors were given, some chose to incorporate unconventional elements to their pieces. McDonald had her actresses doing sign language throughout her song, and something that Nold implemented was an actual kite flown in her scene by her two actresses.

Sophomore Cameron Andrea sees Senior Scenes as a way to get started with theatre especially for those afraid to audition for more mainstream performances.

“Just bring a positive attitude and a smile to every audition, and even if you don’t get cast; you are succeeding to [help fulfill] another person’s dream,” Andrea said. “I felt so great about [the performance], because [even] if you miss a line or a note, you’re up there on that stage. You’re the one telling that story. Experiences like these are ones I can’t forget.”

Andrea, cast in “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors directed by senior Abby Keys, did Senior Scenes as a way to develop and branch out as an actor. He gets his inspiration from a desire to be something bigger than himself and to be able to inspire others.

“Senior Scenes was such a good experience for me, I’m saddened that it’s over. You learn and grow with a cast, and I would call my last cast some of my best friends,” Andrea said. “I’ve created bonds with people I usually wouldn’t ever talk to. If you have the opportunity to do Senior Scenes next year, I highly recommended it.”

The next East Theatre production is Cinderella to be presented on April 18th, 19th, and 20th.

Mythreyi Namaduri is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl

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