Theatre’s Back, Baby!

For the first time in more than  a year, the school’s theatre department puts on an  in-person show


Annabel Friedman

Photographs of “Greek Mythology Olympiaganza” and “Medea,” the one acts that took place in November 

The spotlight turns on and the cast rush to their places. The audience quiets down and cell phones are muted. Everyone is holding their breath, waiting for the curtains to open and for the first note of the music to ring out. Or at least, that is how the school’s 2020 musical would have gone.

In spring of 2020, theatre shows and studios across the world were forced to close down for 18 months. Recently, however, studios have reopened and a new season of theatre has begun.

In the same vein, Arlington Public Schools were also shut down for months, along with school-run in-person plays. With its closure, the spring musical for 2020, “Kiss Me Kate,” was cancelled. However, the students were determined for the show to go on and in turn put on two virtual shows during the 2020-2021 school year: “Check Please” and “Double Double.”

“[The virtual plays] were like a mix of theatre, movie, hybrid,” Mr. Issa, the theatre teacher at the school, said. “We learned a lot of film editing that I didn’t know how to do before … It was different, but we still got to act. We still got to tell stories. We still got to rally an audience to come and be with us.”

It took over a year for an in-person production to begin. All the cast and audience wore masks due to the ongoing pandemic, and much of the cast regularly took COVID-19 tests, but theatre was back in the swing of things. 

“It’s been hard,” Mr. Isa said. “We have to wear masks onstage to keep everybody safe, [which] impacts volume in production. We also lose a big part of our face that we can react with. So I tried to pick shows that were very physical in nature so that we don’t really need to focus on microexpression.”

In late November 2021, the school theatre department put on three Greek mythology one acts; ‘Greek Mythology Olympiaganza’, ‘Antigone’ and ‘Medea’. 

Sophomore Matteo Hope was a part of the cast for the one act shows that occurred on November 18, 19 and 20. 

“‘The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza,’ it’s a comedy… it’s [essentially] all of the main [Greek myths] jumbled into one hilarious show,” Hope said. “[On the other hand], ‘Antigone’ is a drama about a girl, two girls really, whose family has been through a lot, there’s a war going on, due to the new king rule…so it’s just kind of her journey. [‘Medea’] is about this girl named Medea who was in love with a guy named Jason, and eventually left her for a richer woman, and just kind of her revenge plot.”

There are several departments in the theatre that help put the show together, such as lights, sound, set and stage management. Each department is manned by one or two people (heads) that oversee their department and ensure that everything comes together for the big day. However, for many of the heads there, training for their position was cut short due to the pandemic.

“I came into theatre freshman year, and then COVID started halfway through my sophomore year,” senior and co-head of set Annika Aho said. “I was [just] beginning to get mentored by the previous set head, and due to that, I didn’t really get that full knowledge passed down to me.”

Theatre was also affected by the supply chain shortages happening across the world. 

“A sheet of plywood that we would use to build a platform used to be about $40,” Mr. Issa said. “Now it’s about $65, if you can find it. Our delivery has also been impacted. When ordering props online, everything is marked up as a result of inflation. All the props take longer to deliver, as the supply chain is affected.” 

Despite this, the onstage and backstage managed to put on what many viewed as an  amazing performance for the one act, which featured, but was not limited to, an eagle, electric skateboards, fight scenes, confetti guns and a Trojan horse.

“It’s nice to be on stage….to be learning lines,” said Hope. “It’s really fun, acting is just really fun.”

On the days leading up to the big show, ‘organized chaos’ is said to be the best way to describe it. 

“Before the show, we do a lot of preparation like designing cues [for lights] and making different designs,” junior and head of lights Henry Frickert said. “We move through those queues during the show like control the house lights, audience lights, and control the lights during the show, and you know, enhance [the] performance.”

For the one acts, rehearsals ran on Monday and Tuesday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., and Wednesday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. so that the cast and crew could be prepared for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night where they would put on the actual show.

On top of the actual performance being rehearsed, the run crew, which are the individuals dressed in black that run on to the stage, practice moving sets and props around during this time. 

“Even though [run crew] is hard, it’s really fun,” Aho said. “I enjoy the thrill of being on stage for a little bit in between scenes. Even though I don’t like acting…it’s just like experience, the crowd, and all that just having cues and stuff…it’s just very exhilarating.”

The theatre community is a place known to many as a backdrop for making new friends and having fun. 

“The community, it’s just the best,” Aho said. “You make so many [friends]. I joined during my freshman year and I made a ton of friends and I’m still friends with them now…We created something together and it just really made us close.”

So much more than what is seen on stage goes into school productions. Much of the cast and crew plan months ahead for the school play and musical and pour their heart and soul into them to have them come to life.

“My dad used to tease me about doing theatre, he went ‘what kind of job are you going to get from doing that?’ The answer is everything,” Mr. Issa said. “There is no skill that theatre sort of world doesn’t touch on…It’s a great community and a great place to learn awesome things. If you’re performing, learning more about other people…If you’re backstage, you’re learning carpentry, you’re learning how to do rigging, you’re learning electrics, you’re up there playing the lights.”

In January, the theatre department will be putting on the musical “A Little Shop of Horrors” which focuses on a florist who has a unique plant that only eats human flesh and blood. The musical has been pushed back to March. The school play “Clue” will be put on in the spring. Production for the musical has started, while auditions for the play will be held after the musical. 

“[Being in theatre] you have a skill and a contribution to putting on and creating something that exists in the world for a short period of time, but has an impact on so many people that are a part of it, and there to witness,” Mr. Issa said. “Knowing that you’re part of something bigger is…magical.”