How to Pick a Theatre Season…

Contrary to popular belief I do not throw darts at show posters to pick my season, nor do I pick out of a hat.  Traditionally I do send a desperate plea to Mac, our former theatre teacher and Mr. Bowers for ideas.  Finally I talk to Wayne, and let me tell you, he is NOT helpful.  His current suggestion is Pokémon

I should talk to more theatre teachers about this.. how do other people pick their seasons? In the past I have been apart of season selection committees, watched groups let the directors pick the show they want to director and I’ve seen people choose based on the company members they have.  My senior year of undergrad was filled with theatre classes and one theatre education class where I sat in my Department Chair’s office every week to discuss all the lessons I’d written, talk about what I was stage managing and finally put together a hypothetical 4 year season plan… Let me tell you, it was so easy picking seasons for hypothetical teenagers.  The idea for this 4 year season plan was that when I did become a high school teacher I’d have a ready made plan… ha…ha..ha… Nope, that list was tossed out the first year I started teaching.

Picking a season for a high school has both been easy for me and extremely difficult. Two seasons ago, I had my entire season planned by May, it was simple.  Most years things do not fall into place that easily.  As an educator I try to pick plays that over four years will have taught the students something from freshmen to senior year.  We go through the different musical styles every four years, I try to do classical pieces intermixed with modern plays, we create physical theatre and do straight plays.  This is all wonderful to talk about, but picking plays which fall into these categories that also work for a high school, is difficult.

What I think about when picking a season:

  1. What haven’t we done?
  2. How many characters are in the play?
  3. How many men/women are in the play?
  4. Is there a good ensemble?
  5. What are the tech elements?  Will it challenge Stage Crew?
  6. Do we have multiple students who could play each role?
  7. Will the public want to see this show?
  8. What is the educational value?

It’s arduous to find the perfect shows for that year of students.  They don’t make many challenging large cast, female powerhouse plays anymore… what am I saying? They haven’t ever made many of those plays. Sadly theatre is a male world, but high school theatre departments are filled with more female actors than male actors.  Our fall show last year had 4 men and 15 women (who ended up playing male characters).  In the past I’ve written my own plays just so I can get more female characters, or rewritten male parts to females.  Some plays you can do that, and some plays the playwright has expressly forbidden any change.  See my challenge?

sylviaWhy was this year so difficult?  Probably because I’m extremely indecisive right now.  We had our musical chosen in late June and I didn’t settle on a fall play until this Friday.  It’s Sylvia by A.R. Gurney.  I first saw this play in undergrad and remember laughing so much.  As I reread the play about a man, Greg who brings home a dog, Sylvia he found in the park that day, I could see the actors I first saw performing their lines and running around the stage.  A human woman plays a dog, so seeing dog actions portrayed through human motions is captivating and wildly hysterical.  I was unsure about the fall play for I had to find a small cast for the Black Box production we will put on this October.  When I say small cast, I mean 4-6 people small.  Finally I found it in Sylvia.

fiddler-roof-01Traditionally the musical is the most difficult for we can’t find a show that has amazing female roles, a great ensemble and intricate music for the pit orchestra and singers.  Both Ms. Winnie and Ms. Houge suggested Fiddler on the Roof and I said, “Really?”  I never thought they’d suggest that musical, but it fit and I love it.  Once upon a time… 17 years ago I played Tevya.  I rocked the coolest beard!  Fiddler on the Roof is perfect!  Lots of female roles, a great ensemble and tough music for the pit orchestra.  On the plus side for me, there is amazing dance opportunities in this show.  Have you seen the 2015 Broadway revival?!

the-tempest-06And finally I chose The Tempest by that English playwright.  We haven’t done a Shakespeare since 2013, so no one currently in school has experienced the wonder that is being in a Shakespeare play.  I promise you it is so much better than any of your English class experiences.  This play will make a William Shakespeare enthusiast out of you.  The spring play will be the big cast production where you can be automatically cast if you come to the workshops and audition.  Also, I want to edit it and put aerial dance into it.  This play is about magic and a storm.  Aerial silks is perfect for telling the story.  It also is an amazing show for tech to shine, Wayne, our Tech Director, is very excited to get his hands on this show.

While the 2016-2017 theatre season was the most difficult for me to choose, I’m very excited with the season.  Each play deals with conflict and change, so the theme for this season is “Winds of Change,” whether it’s a husband who brings home a dog one day and almost ruins his marriage, a Jewish population forced out of their town, or real wind changing to create a tempest that washes enemies to shore, this season is filled with laughter, heartbreak, challenges and so much fun for those students who choose to be apart of the Theatre Department this year.  Hope to see you all there!

Season Banner 2016-2017

By: Ms. Figg-Franzoi
Homestead High School Theatre Teacher

Blog by Ken

Throughout my Homestead experience I can truly say I have dealt with some characters, but this group that I had to deal with is one that I find to be the perfect mix of awkward and somewhat dominating personalities. The group would have the perfect balance between a good monotone scatters, along with a great deal of what some may call over acting. But the group was nothing compared to it’s great leader, the almighty director, Cali. I have known Cali for quite some time now, yeah we go way back, but I have never seen Cali in a leadership role quite like this. Cali took over director the only way she knew how, quirky and big time. Starts to running through scenes would often start with our fearless leader running through an entire ten minutes of the play, as a one man show. Not to mention, her on point singing of the entire Suite Life of Zack and Cody theme song that she would insist on singing EVERY SINGLE DAY. Calis constant singing has caused everyone in the class to purchase earplugs in order to ward off the frequent distraction of her siren voice.  Now granted our group did not provide the best space to be “the best director she could be”, but when Cali gives into Mason’s request of a quick WWE Smackdown match it makes it kind of hard to live up to your potential. Cali also had to deal with another large issue when discussing the hierarchy of powers regarding our play. Meaning, that our group essentially had eight mini directors(myself included). I do think that we often wasted some time arguing on which colored door we should enter from. However, we also had a lot of productive talks on where we all wanted to see the play go and Cali often let us voice our own opinions on the play. Cali did an amazing job dealing with the multiple personalities that we had and was able to make it all mesh together.  Even though every fiber of my being wanted to see Cali play Philis in the other groups performance  of The Office, I am so unbelievably happy that she ended up being our Commander-in-chief. Cali did an incredible job with the time and talent that was provided, I think this little acting two play actually turned into a decent middle school performance and it couldn’t have happened without her amazing input. The pitch would be one of . Also, her constant bickering with other students has really hindered the classroom. On the bright side, she was very helpful to any student that asked. Overall, acting 2 was one of the most pleasurable classes that i have taken due to the sheer amount of autonomy we got to have in the class. I have made many friends and strengthened existing friendships in this amazing class. I would like to thank Ms. Figg and all my other classmates for being so find and cooperative with me throughout the whole trimester and for giving me the experience of a lifetime.  All in all, I had a great experience in acting 2 with a lot of laughs and good times. I will miss this class after graduation and appreciate the time I spent with my peers.

My Stretch Class: By Betsy Baker

I have been doing theatre since about the 6th grade, which is when I realized the only time I ever like dance is when we were performing and that I should probably just be performing instead. I have been in several plays every year since then and I never passed up an opportunity to be a part of a show. This year, however, I decided to participate in a part of theatre I had never done before, which was stage crew. I have gone to plenty of auditions, performed in front of tons of strangers, sang at talent shows, and danced in various productions of The Nutcracker roughly 5 times, so being nervous is nothing new for me, but I have never been more terrified and simultaneously excited as I was on the first day of Stage Crew.

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I had some friends there that helped out at first, but we were all assigned different tasks so we didn’t really get to talk to each other much. It’s not meeting new people that really scared me, it was the very realistic fear that I would do something stupid. No matter where you go, there is always a slight chance that you will inevitably do something mortifyingly embarrassing, which doesn’t really bother me that much. The problem was that there were a lot more ways for me to mess up, and really badly too. There were power tools and burning hot lights and various other ways for me to inadvertently destroy the universe.

Most of the nerves went away by the second day of crew, which almost half the people that were there the first time didn’t show up to. I ended up being the only freshman on stage crew for Peter Pan, my friends were all too nervous to come back to crew. At first I was sad, but looking back I am happy that they didn’t stick with Stage Crew because I loved the experience I had and it would not have been possible if they were there.

Despite how nervous I was on the first day, I loved stage crew and am looking forward to doing it next year and the years to follow. Being backstage gave me a whole different perspective on what really goes into a show. As actors, my friends and I never put much thought into how our props just magically showed up, or how during rehearsal, the set would be bigger than it was yesterday. We never saw these things happen and it was very interesting to be on the side of theatre that makes those things happen.

For me crew was more than countless splinters, paint in my hair and on my arms that won’t wash out, and sweeping….a lot. Crew was screaming the words of Panic! At The Disco songs, head-banging to the music backstage, making a bad Star Wars joke on clear com that no one thought was funny, and eating more Lifesaver mints than you can count. It’s watching hours of work come to life on stage and watching hours of dumb videos backstage.

Being a part of Stage Crew is probably the most adventurous thing I have done all year, and I loved every moment of it. It reminded me that theatre is an art form that is truly unique and beautiful, no matter how you are involved in it, and it showed me that I don’t have to be on stage to love being a part of the shows here at Homestead.

Written By: Betsy Baker

The Black Box: By Garrett Mitman

Written by: Garrett Mitman (Junior)
Acting 2

Of all the rooms in Homestead, the Black Box is definitely one of my favorites.  This is partially due to the fact that I enjoy Acting so much more than I do my other classes.  To be honest, my other classes make me extremely bored.  I really dislike sitting around and listening to lectures, so Acting is a refreshing break from the monotony of “regular” classes.  In this way, the Black Box is a place I associate with having fun and overcoming my fear of public speaking.

There is a lot of really cool furniture in the black box.  The “casting couch” is the first piece that comes to mind.  Apparently it’s really old, and it’s really comfortable.  Not to mention it has a really funny name.  Another cool piece of furniture is the desk we are using for the reception desk in our play.  It is really big and would be a really cool desk to do work at.  Also, there are some nice chairs in the back that are really comfortable to sit on while you go over your lines or even between your onstage appearances during productions.

According to Ms. Figg, the black box has a lot of mice/rats/rodents.  I always eat in there, so I think it’s possible that they eat my crumbs after everyone leaves for the day and they are able to come out without getting harmed.  

My favorite room in the Black Box is the little back room.  I used to always go back there during Acting 1.  Since I took it in the winter, the room was really warm and incredibly comfortable.  It is also really well lit so it’s a good place to go do homework if you have nothing else to do.  I really liked spending time back there, and Mr. Marton let us, so it was a pretty cool setup.

The days that we get to practice in the Black Box are way better than when we have to go in the lobby.  The Black Box is a way better setup, and it’s much better to practice where we perform rather than practice in the hall.  Now that there are a bunch of doors and a wall in the black box, it’s fun to practice in there and act like it’s the real production.  Also, there are now bleachers in there for the audience, and they are really nice to sit in.  They’re not as good as the padded seats in the front row, but they’re nice nonetheless.  

There is also a fridge in the Black Box.  I have no idea what’s in there, but it is a pretty cool looking fridge.  It looks pretty old and could be an antique.  To be honest, I doubt that thing still works.  It does not make noise like some old fridges do.

In conclusion, I really like the Black Box.  From just chilling to practicing our play, I love spending time in there.  It’s definitely going to be sad next year when I do not get to find any time in my schedule to be in the Black Box.

How did they do school shows back in the day? — Music Directing the School Musical

“…Moreover, in our schools and in our life we fail to recognize adequately the educational power of joy”

via How did they do school shows back in the day? — Music Directing the School Musical

Practice Makes Perfect: by Garrett Mitman

Written by: Garrett Mitman
Acting 2 2016

4G7A5727One thing I definitely have newfound appreciation for after taking Acting 2 is that you have to practice over and over to have a successful performance.  Our group often got off track, and our first performance suffered for it.  However, I really think we pulled it together in time for the second performance and ended up improving greatly.

After this experience, I appreciate the ideal that you have to exaggerate when you are practicing to have a successful performance.  When the audience is there and you get nervous, most people start to talk quickly and quietly, with much less expression.  Because of this, you have to greatly exaggerate and project during your practice.  This way, when you start to speak with less effectiveness, you are better because your starting point was much slower and more clear.  

To continue, practicing keeps you from getting really nervous when the actual performance is.  I felt well prepared and surprisingly did not feel much stage fright during our performance.  I think this is due to how much we practiced, so I felt prepared to do my job and did not have to overthink what was going on.  Rather, I let my instincts take over, trusted my preparation, and acted.  

Obviously, sometimes it gets really hard to stay focused when practicing.  Our group definitely had this affliction, since we all like to talk with each other and have fun.  I think we ended up pulling it together well enough and had a good mix of work and play.  At the end of the day, our practice was actually a lot of fun and definitely prepared us well for our final performance.  I am definitely going to miss our dress rehearsals and practices.  They were very entertaining considering the fact that our group had a lot of drama.

Furthermore, our practices were really hard to get done since we had a lot of scheduling conflicts.  However, we had Colin, the director, fill in for those who were absent.  This worked well because Colin had a script for his lines so he could also make sure we did not skip a ton of lines or go out of order.  Interestingly enough, we ended up skipping a lot of lines in both productions.  We definitely rebounded well though and kept the plays running smoothly.  Although there were some awkward pauses during both productions, audience members later commented that they could still understand the plot.  Whether this be because a lot of people watch The Office or because we are good at improvising, who knows.

In conclusion, this final production has taught me a lot about the importance of practice in relation to acting.  I can’t even imagine how much the Homestead theatre kids and professional thespians have to practice to perform a successful play.  Even for us, we sunk hours and hours into practicing, and could have even spent more time if we had it.  I have newfound respect for the required time spent to perfect any performance and will remember this the next time I see a play at Homestead or at any other theatre.  There is definitely much more that goes into the production than meets the spectator’s eye!

Directing Styles: By Trevor Shahrokhi

Written By: Trevor Shahrokhi

4G7A5593The interesting dynamic between directors results in two completely different style results. The first director, Colin Cassen had a more restraint directing style resulting in more responsibility and control with the actors. As an actor in his play the increased control to the actors resulted in funnier lines and better editing on what to keep and what to discard in the play. The actors however were constantly able to slack off in practice resulting in a poor use of practice time. The director had attendance issues which put a lot of stress on the actors to do well. The actors however were incapable of using their time well and the lack of a director may have had a bit to do with an unfamiliarity in lines and transitions. The final product revealed the amount of individual stress on each actor but a lack of dependency on the director for direction. However on the downside, this created a rift between the actors and the director in terms of lighting and scene changes. The actors and the director may not have been on the same page for the entire play however the end result did not have as many lapses as the other play. Much of our practice time was devoted to viral videos and wasting time as well as we could. The inter group conflicts between Garret and Jack caused for many wastes of time throughout our time together as a group. The amount of time we wasted on stupid things was astounding. And the fighting between our group and the other group was rather ludicrous. I deeply appreciated the chance to yell at the other group or even the people in our own group. If we had used the time we wasted to practice it probably would’ve been the best acting play ever.

4G7A5849The opposite play directed by Cali Weigert had just as much trouble as the previously mentioned play. Cali advocated and performed a more active directing style micromanaging her actors and resulting in less individual input from actors. The final product was well done in a directing standpoint but had lapses by the actors. The scene changes were well managed however the actors had many line issues most likely resulting from a director who fed the lines constantly during practice. This is all on observations of their group during practice and from what the teacher and sub have said. It was rather difficult to watch their play objectively because I was overly critical and rather negative about it. Their actors, with much potential, were hampered by the director. I appreciated their play however I think that our group did much better than them. It was an interesting experience overall.

In both plays, actors had many reservations about their directors for different reasons. However the job of the director is never easy and is difficult to be successful in, especially on the first try. Both actors and directors performed well and both plays were well done. Acting was surely an interesting third trimester class.

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