Lights, camera, theater!

VHSL theater crew creates memory filled comedy


Gayda Makki

During rehearsals of “Work in Progress” theater arts director Andrew Shaw presents seniors Alli Baxter, Zach Smith and Samantha Massi with constructive criticism.

Gayda Makki, Staff Writer

After thinking, feeling and actually being a character for weeks, the VHSL theater crew walks on stage for another one of their many rehearsals. Unlike traditional shows, this play was only open to the advanced theater students in first period. 

The actors received the play’s script before winter break, so they could read it over break and have a sense of what’s to come. Auditions and role casting were held the first day back from break. The play, “Work in Progress” is an original by theater arts director Andrew Shaw, with about 16 characters, three of which are the main characters. 

“It’s centered around a character who’s a high school student trying to return to normal after losing someone close to them,” Shaw said. “It is based on my own life experience dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one.”

The VHSL theater crew placed first in districts on Jan. 21 and regionals on Feb. 8  and are currently preparing for states on March 4. Rehearsals for upcoming state competition are held in first period and a couple days after school each week.         

Preparations such as role casting started the first day back from break. The first two weeks included memorizing lines, character work, technique specialization and scene transitions.

“All these past weeks we’ve been trying to perfect the play and make it as seamless as possible,” Shaw said. 

Aside from characters, there are also people working behind the stage ensuring the play and the actors are in costume, full makeup and are ready for the show. Junior Lake Ervin is in charge of costumes, hair and makeup. 

“For the first scene everyone is in black, except for the main characters,  but then layers start to get put on,” Ervin said. “I try to make costumes discern characters from each other, so they can all have a different vibe.” 

Being an original play, the actors have the freedom to interpret each of their roles in their own way. The individual roles given to the actors were not at all specific and had no significant name. Every character’s name is based on what they do in the play; this way, the actors have the chance to work with their director, Shaw, to create these memory filled characters. 

“I really love watching all the actors perform and the characters they come up with on the way,” Junior Nishmaya Gundapuneedi said. “Getting to see people really build their own character and put them out on stage is really fun for me and allows us to call this play our very own.” 

From past competitions, the VHSL theater crew received some admiration, comments and critiques from judges. They are looking for creativity in the script as well in the actual performance. They were told by judges that their scene transitions were smooth and outstanding. Some goals they’d like to add for future competitions are to perfect these transitions and make them as clean as possible and to include sections of overlapping dialogue in an attempt to sound more like real world conversations. The individuality of the 16 characters and their depth of talent also gained some special recognition from judges. 

“We’re excited from the notes we got [in districts and regionals] to continue to work on,” Shaw said. 

 According to junior Rory Ketzle, everyone in the department is dedicated to not only theater, but also to each other. 

“If we mess around during rehearsals, we’re not only disrespecting our director, but also our cast members as well,” junior Rory Ketzle said. “They have spent hours and hours preparing themselves, so it’s all about respect and pride in what we are doing.” 

One of the last major improvements the actors are trying to implement is a precise presentation of humor in the play. When performing at districts, the director and actors realized that the audience didn’t know they were allowed to laugh. 

“We started out with a funeral and it was a bit sad and gloomy, and so I guess it wasn’t clear for people that this show was supposed to be humorous,” Shaw said. 

In response to this, they decided to pinpoint a couple of jokes and tweak the delivery to make it clear that people were meant to laugh; the cast continues to practice as a cohort, learning from experience.

“Overall, I think all of the show and the whole crew are going to be very well prepared and have a good time,” Shaw said. “A lot of it comes down to personal preference of the judges, so there’s always going to be one or two judges who don’t like our overlapping dialogue, which is okay, because I have many more ideas to come.”