by Alison Standish
21 February 2018
“I think it was great, I don’t think there was anything that could have gone better,” sponsor Nicole Schremp said directly following the Senior Scenes performances on February 15th. Photo by Alison Standish.
On Thursday, February 15th, the stage in the Performing Arts Center stood vacantly silent while the audience buzzed with chatter, waiting expectedly in their seats. The stage would soon be filled with actors, actors who would bring stories to life to entertain the audience and fill them with amusement, emotion, or suspense. Behind the wings, the East Theatre thespians were preparing for a night of diverse performances, scenes that were the product of the East Theatre seniors’ creativity and hard work.
Senior Scenes is a student-run combination of the different aspects of theatre: both acting and directing. It was a unique opportunity for the East Theatre thespians to come together and share their different talents, with the underclassmen performing in various scenes that were selected and directed by the seniors.
Senior Scenes was a way for the East Theatre seniors to put their creative ideas towards the making of a final product, a scene. Each scene was unique to its director.
“I have a lot of emotional involvement with my scene, especially since it’s such a dramatic piece. I’m going to try to make it so that… I want to be connected to this. If I was actually in the audience watching this scene, would I be engaged? would I be experiencing what everyone onstage is experiencing? So I’ve kind of taken that route more with the scene to grab that kind of emotional involvement,” senior director Dylan Craven said the day before the performance.
The various joys of directing come not only with emotional involvement but with the directing itself.
Senior director Valerie Anderson said that her cast was one of the best aspects of her directing experience throughout the Senior Scenes production process.
“My scene is “Mama I’m a big girl now” from Hairspray. I have six underclassmen. It’s just a fun piece. It’s a musical, so they’re singing and dancing, and it’s just a really good time. They’re awesome students, they listen to everything, and they come to rehearsals. I love them so much, and it’s a really good scene. It’s just a fun piece to show,” Anderson said.
However, the directing of the scenes was not free of all difficulty. The Senior Scenes production process was, at times, somewhat of a rocky road, according to sponsor Nicole Schremp.
“This year has been quite challenging in that we had probably 65 people come out for auditions and the seniors decided that they wanted to cast everyone to give them a chance,” Schremp said. “We had a number of people drop out with little to no communication with the directors, so they’ve kind of had to be creative and problem solve.”
Problem solving and creativity is a regular part of life as a director, but these things can be rewarding and even fun when their work is seen onstage. This is what senior scenes was all about.
“Being a director is a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun. We are responsible for getting our scene together. Senior scenes is a lot about independence, so as a director you have to work with your different actors. They might have different schedules or different needs, so you work with them on that,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot about being creative. You have ideas and you want to just make sure you display them. Sometimes it’s difficult to get that communication across, but when you do, it’s fantastic as a director to see your work onstage.”
Craven added that the work of a director, while somewhat taxing at times, is ultimately a fun and rewarding learning experience.
“[Being a director is] stressful. It’s really stressful because you have to find times to rehearse and you have to block the entire scene. You have to notice every little aspect of the scene to see if there’s anything that can be worked or anything that cannot be worked,” Craven said. “How would I see this as an audience member and how can I improve it with the actors with the emotions? It’s a lot of stressful work but I’ve enjoyed it, it’s a great learning experience, and it’s just really fun.”
Portraying creative vision is something a director can struggle with at times, but achieving that vision is a very satisfactory portion of the directing experience.
“All directors I think have difficulties, in directing different things. I had a hard time figuring out what exactly I wanted the stage picture to look like, so where the actors were and what they were doing. But like I said, I worked really closely with all the actors. I kept up with them, I heard what they had to say and what they thought would look great and [we] kind of melded all our ideas together and ended with this picture that I absolutely love,” Anderson said.
Senior Scenes was a rewarding experience from an acting standpoint, according to senior actor Agrima Sachdev.
“I think it’s a lot of fun. You’re basically acting for your peers. And for me, acting is not really something I do, I’ve always been backstage or more in the directing field of stuff. So when I found out I couldn’t direct a scene, I had to act, I was kind of glad I could do something new,” Sachdev said on Wednesday.
The Senior Scenes performances ranged from humorous, laughable scenes selected from plays such as “Love, Gender, and the IRS,” “Noises Off,” or “Marvin’s Room.” The program also contained more serious scenes from plays such as “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” and “A Few Good Men,” as well as two musical numbers from both “Grease” and “Hairspray.”
Theatre, according to Craven, is about a lot more than entertainment.
“What theatre means to me is it’s kind of a learning experience as well as an art. You get to learn more about yourself as well as other people, and [to] see what you can do. Working with these people is more of an art as well, that it’s more than just entertainment for people. It’s just a learning experience,” Craven said. “You will go to a show, and you will walk out either inspired or in some way just more emotionally involved with it. It’s a lot more than anything else. So to me, it’s just something that I love, it’s an art, and it’s really just a great way to learn about yourself.”
The curtains closed on Senior Scenes Thursday night, and junior Mckenna Kreiling, one of the executive producers for Senior Scenes, said she was satisfied with the overall results.
“I [am] very very happy with how all the performances went. Sure there were some hiccups, but overall it was very smooth [and] very successful, and I was very happy about that,” Kreiling said on Thursday.
According to Schremp, the overall performances went well.
“I thought they did a nice job,” Schremp said. “We had a nice crowd for them, and I think that everything went smoothly.”
Craven was able to take away a sense of personal achievement, as well as being proud of the cast of students he directed.
“I’m most proud of the fact that I actually was able to do this, actually direct this piece. My cast did such an amazing job. It really makes me proud of them,” Craven said.
Alison Standish is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL