Between 12th and 14th February 2019, the senior school performed an amazing version of Thorton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer prize drama Our Town. The play tells a story of everyday life in a fictional small American town in the early years of the 20th Century. The cast were from all senior years.
Directed by BSM drama teacher, Mr Paul Hannon, the drama team started rehearsals in early January, straight after the start of Term 2. The tech team, managing the stage set-up, sound and lighting, were supervised by Mr Sam Findel-Hawkins.
Three of the main actors provide insight on their learning experience:
Ruth (Emily) – Year 8
Q: Why do you audition for school productions?
I audition for school performances because it gives me a chance to do what I love. To act. And It also helps with confidence to perform or even just audition. I always tell myself to audition because what’s the worst that can happen? I love auditions, as nerve wracking as they are. Because once you find your character you just become that person and it’s an amazing experience over all.
Q: Having already performed in two school productions, how did Our Town challenge you as an actor?
I had to spend a lot of time trying to put myself in Emily’s shoes and wondering what she would be thinking at certain points in the play. The script really challenged me to understand why Emily would react to scenes in a certain way and because many of my lines were part of conversations my cue lines were just as important.
Q: What made you nervous?
I was most nervous of the last scene for the first performance. The first night was terrifying because I didn’t know what to expect. Every audience is different but having done the first night you get a feel of the play and you feel more comfortable performing the next. But act three was the scariest for me. Although it was quite short, a lot of the lines were mine and several times I almost repeated myself – so to not get them mixed up was very challenging.
Leonardo (George) – Year 10
Q: What did you learn from the rehearsals that you did not already know about being on stage?
During hours of rehearsals, I learnt the difficulty and importance of constantly staying in character. Before Our town I did not understand how loudly actions can portray emotions, and how difficult it is to be aware of them at all times – no matter how long you are on stage or your significance in a scene.
Q: What moment in the play was the most difficult or meaningful for you – why?
The most difficult moments for me were my scenes with Emily. The lines delivered in those scenes demanded genuine and natural emotions to develop the storyline of the play. I found these moments challenging as I had to put my thoughts and feelings aside, and fully embody George as a person.
Personally, the most meaningful moment in the play was actually at the very end, where we stood in a row and bowed to the audience. This brought closure to the countless hours of hard work and our triumph.
Q: What advice would you give to an actor playing George in the future?
My greatest advice for someone playing George would be to take risks, and to understand George’s character across the different stages of the play. In Our town, George is portrayed in different times of his life; he is seen to grow from an adolescent to adulthood, thus, an array of characteristics can be explored and altered. I strongly believe it is crucial to understand his emotions and thoughts during these phases of his life, and to constantly take risks when playing his character to find what feels natural for your George.
Rosie (Mrs. Gibbs) – Year 13
Q: How did classroom learning (IB Theatre) impact your performance in Our Town?
An example would be the aspect of ‘Viewpoints’ by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau which explores nine physical viewpoints: Spatial Relationships, Kinesthetic Response, Shape, Gesture, Repetition, Architecture, Tempo, Duration, and Topography. Using physical movement also taught me that you don’t need props or voice to deliver an action or a motive because your physical movements can express the emotion and attitude that the character wants to convey. Another aspect of IB Theatre that helped me was the development of my character. Through the IB Collaborative Project and the IB Solo, I was able to build the character, by analysing her traits, background and motives. For me, character development is something I struggled with so this production gave me the opportunity to explore my character more deeply.
Q: How, if at all, has performance and production helped your sense of belonging at BSM?
Being in the theatre production has let me into a community that enjoys similar passions for performance and drama. I have been on stage and behind the scenes with the tech team. Both roles have different perspectives, but are both important as the amount of effort that goes into creating the performance is a huge responsibility.
Q: What would you do differently, if you were rehearsing/ performing Our Town again?
Things I would change if performing Our Town again would be that of character development. During rehearsals, I could have explored more on the delivery of my lines and tried out different tones to express the emotion; as that connection affects the relationships with other characters on stage. Alongside that, I would further improve my pace and energy, both of these concepts define the mood of the scenes and informs the audience how the characters are feeling and what actions could be followed.