Real High School Drama by Grace McCormick
High school is full of drama, especially in the auditorium. The department of theater requires effort from its students, demanding that they memorize lines and blocking, build their own sets, make their characters come to life and submit themselves to the audition process.
“When I walk in for my audition, I’m terrified,” senior Christina North said. “I don’t know if I’m going to get the part that I want and I don’t know if I’ve prepared enough.”
Actors interested in trying out for plays or musicals are given access to the script and often choose to watch movies and listen to the soundtrack at home.
“To prepare for an audition, I read through the script and try to find characters that catch my eye,” freshman Anna Handwork said. “My preparation both calms my nerves and excites them.”
The anxiety and nerves that come both before and after the audition are calmed when the time comes for the cast list to go up.
“Mrs. Benson always has a place for everyone,” North said, smiling. “You may not get the part you want, but she knows where you will fit best.”
Shortly after the cast list goes up, it becomes time for the first rehearsal.
“My favorite thing about rehearsals is getting to do the things that I love with the kindest, funniest and most talented people I know,” junior Alexia Barnhart said. “I learn something new every day in rehearsal.”
At the beginning of the rehearsal period, the cast often starts with a read-through of the script.
When it comes time for stage blocking and choreography, it is difficult for actors to learn and memorize what they need to do. It takes time to organize that chaos and produce the show the audience sees.
“Blocking is like writing an article. If you want to do it right, it will change constantly,” Handwork said, noting the frustration that often results from the stage direction process.
Blocking positions the actors have can change a few times throughout the rehearsal period. When the cast goes off book, they are not only responsible for memorizing their lines, but also their current blocking positions. It is rare that blocking will change after going off book, but it is still a possibility.
“By the time dress rehearsals roll around, there are no significant changes. It’s just a matter of practicing with costumes on,” Barnhart said. “Seeing everyone in costume really brings the characters to life.”
The cast is normally comfortable with their lines, choreography and blocking by dress rehearsals. Sometimes the cast comes across the struggle of saying their lines so much they forget the original meaning or purpose of certain lines.
“An audience helps the actors remember the hilarity of their well-rehearsed lines through their reactions, which have an incredible influence on performances,” sophomore Sara Fortriede said.
Actors say that dress rehearsals flow the same way a performance does, but performances are always more exciting.
“There is a buzz of excitement backstage when the seats in the house are filled with people who came to see the show,” Fortriede said. “Laughs and applause do not go unnoticed behind the curtain.”
During the past two shows, the cast and crew have stumbled across some performance-altering problems including a cast member fracturing a wrist, another getting second degree burns on his hands, the lead director having to take time off, or the lead actor getting into a car accident and not being able to perform. All these incidents happened during last spring’s musical, “The Addams Family,”and this fall’s play, “A Christmas Carol,” but the theater team has overcome these issues.
“Theater kids do a lot of hard work and I feel like we’re not always credited for that by other students,” sophomore Zoë Freiburger said.
This is a popular opinion among theater students. They believe that this is because in sports, fans can see huddles and the team making a plan as they go along, while in theater, the plan is already made and the hard work put into that plan can be masked by only two performances.
“Rehearsals, especially dress rehearsals, are like a pregame warmup when everyone is excited and working towards a common goal,” Freiburger said.
Theater students have a tradition of getting in a circle for vocal warm-ups before performances.
“We put our arms around each other and close our eyes, and in that moment we all prepare for an exhilarating performance,” Barnhart said. “This time gives each individual a time to calm their nerves. After warm-ups, we play a game to get us pumped up.”
Warm-ups are often a favorite part of a performance day because the cast and crew gathers together with a common goal in mind. When the theater participants exit warm-ups, they separate and put the last touches on their costume, go to the tech booth or prepare for their cue.
“Performances [have] more excitement than dress rehearsals,” Freiburger said, “and also a sense of duty and love for what you have done and what you will accomplish.”
After a performance, the cast and crew unite in giving gifts to the director and accepting gifts of their own from family and friends.
After a short celebration in front of the audience, the cast and crew depart to the cast party.
“Cast parties would probably seem pretty weird to an outsider. We laugh, eat food, play games and relax, still with our makeup on,” Barnhart said. “To our theater family, cast parties are a celebration of all that we have accomplished; they represent a time of relaxing and celebration after all the hard work put into a performance.”
For many actors in “A Christmas Carol,” this will be their last play at Snider.
“I’ve been involved in the Snider theater department for four years now, and not much has changed except seniors departing and freshmen coming in, and I think the department won’t be changing much in years to come,” North said.
Performances of “A Christmas Carol” will take place in the auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on December 1 and 2.