The temperature may be dropping, but things are really heating up in the Herndon High School Theatre Department. Opening night of Twelfth Night went brilliantly last Friday night. I’m so proud of the kind of work the ensemble is doing at the moment. It’s not simply that the lines are memorized and the actors know their cues; which for Shakespeare, given the level of difficulty, would be sufficient for a decent production. What makes me so proud is that the actors are beginning to approach the work with a sense of ownership over the material. They’ve begun to improvise with each other, not in terms of their text, but in truly noticing, and reacting to, each other’s actions. I saw this start to play out on Friday night, and I absolutely loved every minute of it.
Saturday (Cappies!) Night
When I started teaching theatre at HHS last year, I was told about the Cappies and how much people want their awards. At that time, I took a fairly cavalier opinion towards he Cappies. I was of the kind that setting high standards is good, but observing process over results is better. However, I attended the gala last June at the Kennedy Center and saw firsthand the unblemished enthusiasm the students had written on their faces. They were living their dreams on the stage of the Kennedy Center!
I still believe in process over product, but I realize that by incentivizing excellence, the Cappies can bring out the best in some of our actors and tech crew. However, theatre is a fickle and cruel beast, and when some seize the moment, others can be distracted by the weight of expectations and start to lose the process. Overall, though, the ensemble delivered a passionate and empowered performance on Saturday night that I can only hope will generate good buzz for this show. The kids deserve it.
Today’s matinee was another opening show of sorts. Our “matinee” cast delivered a passionate and empowered performance. Frequently, mainstage productions have a hierarchical system based on seniority and experience. By double casting this play, freshmen occupy many of the major roles and are getting to take risks with their characters that might otherwise be unheard of. These freshmen played with such joy and energy, while the more experienced “evening” cast seamlessly slipped into their roles as the background ensemble and made their counterparts even better.
Don’t call it a talkback
To wrap up an extremely long “heaven week,” we concluded today’s performance with a talkback with the cast and crew. I was interested to hear what these Student actors and designers and technicians had learned. It turns out that Shakespeare is still relevant, and that working on challenging material gives rise to introspection. Looking forward to a great final weekend of shows!