Building Bridges

The fall play is being performed tomorrow! Come read about how the people working on it managed to pull it off.

Building Bridges

The first reading of the fall play, Bridges, is being held on Friday, October 16th. Bridges is a collection of short plays that will have readings on three separate nights, October 16th, November 6th, and November 20th. Each play runs for roughly 10-15 minutes and has a small cast of actors. Bridges is a cross division show, so the Middle School will perform first, at 7:00 PM, then the Upper School, at 8:00 PM. The summaries of the 3 plays that are being performed this upcoming Friday are below, in order that they will be performed. (Unofficial summaries from Mark Silence.)

Links to the show:

Middle School     Upper School

This is Not a Play, by Chaz Belov

This play is so aware that it’s a play that it claims not to be a play. It’s about using the language and devices that are present in plays to tell an abstract story, but also has a philosophical side. The big question is: are the characters’s destinies in a play preordained or do the choices that they make affect the outcome of the said play? (Cast: Sarah Cepeda, Joz Butler, Eli Busch)

Sure Thing, by David Ives

It’s the story of two strangers that meet in a cafe, however, every time someone says something that stops the relationship from moving forward, a bell rings and they start over again. Both of the characters have to get it right to move forward, but we get to see failed relationships, which is fun. Also, the bell is a character! (Cast: Jacob Boyar, Lily Maniscalco, Luisa Simon)

A Rebel Among the Wretched, by Andrew Biss

This play is about a group of people in a contemporary American drama, where one of the characters decides that they want to leave the play and go live in a different type of play. It’s self reflective theater in that the question is raised: Do you have to act in the play that you’re in or can you choose to go and be in another play? (Cast: Kenny Backes, Peri Ferguson, Jake Murphy, Olivia McGrath)

To get some more information on how these plays are being produced and what work is going on behind the scenes, Joz Butler reached out to Mark Silence, director of the collection of plays that is Bridges.

The actors have been working since before the beginning of the school year, in readings and auditions, to prepare for the performances. According to Mr. Silence, the actors “read all of the plays beforehand on two separate days, so that everyone could be comfortable with the material,” which was followed by the actual auditions once the school year had started. Theater usually has a summer preseason, similar to sports, where interested students come together and learn about the play before any rehearsals start, but this year it all took place online. That was the first step into the world that the cast would be working in for the next couple of months. Mr. Silence notes that this process is ”definitely easier to schedule, and exponentially easier to communicate,” and while being remote has its difficulties, with actors getting randomly disconnected from rehearsal, it’s proving to have its upsides too.

Over the summer, when Mr. Silence was planning the show, he originally thought that the actors would be in the theater more; “I had hoped to use that time because it was what we’re used to, and it would be the easiest to schedule.” But as rehearsals started, he realized that they had the potential to look a little different this year. For example, this week is tech week and you may not have even known there was a show going on! The play length means rehearsals are much shorter and take place at different times.  Mr. Silence remarks that since he “doesn’t mind working weird hours,” he was able to be much more flexible with the actor's other schedules, like being able to work around sports. The frequency of rehearsals is also less than a full production, with actors meeting two or three times a week for around an hour to read over the shows.

“I usually start thinking about the fall play right after the fall play is over,” Mr. Silence said, “I started to read plays and talk about them with people right after we finished Earnest. I had a lot of time while Addams was going on since I was in and out of the hospital, so I read a lot of scripts and shows when I could. I worked with Ms. Darnton to pick out shows that we thought would be interesting and the theme of connection in isolation came out of that .” The process began with discussions in the spring of last year about potential solutions to problems that might arise because of COVID19; “We had thought about this fairly early on, since we didn’t know when, or if, we were going to be allowed to come back.” While talking about the process of choosing to work in the digital space, Mr. Silence said, “There’s a lot I’ve had to learn with all the new softwares we’re using, like OBS.” Bridges has a tech team that helps run all of the streaming and new equipment that will be used in the performance. Each actor has their own camera and microphone, so multiply that by the maximum number of actors on the stage for one show (one of the middle school plays has a whopping seven actors in one of their performances), and that’s upwards of 14 inputs to deal with, on top of lighting and other audio outputs. Shoutout to Craig Tunks, Jamie LaJoi, Selina Policar and Margo Caddell for doing such great work pulling all of this together!

Two people talking sit across from each other at separate tables with glass dividers in between them. On the wall of the room that they are in, there is a window filled with Zoom windows of eyes watching them.
Art for the first set of plays. Art by Joz Butler.

I’d also like to mention that I’m actually in one of the shows, This is Not a Play, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on it so far! I’m a fully remote student, so I expected to not be able to participate to the same extent that on-campus actors could, but I’ve been continually surprised. The care and effort that the cast and crew has put in makes this experience feel like a normal show. The same connections that I’ve grown to love about theater are still very much present. Whether we’re rehearsing in a Zoom call, or I’m in my little practice room during a run-through of the show, it all feels like we’re working together on a performance still. I’d like to thank Mr. Silence for making this such a great experience for me. And this is only the first reading! We still have two more after this, where the actors will switch roles and we’ll all get to work on different shows. I hope you’ll come to the show this Friday and experience the connection that we’ve worked so hard to bring to you, even through a TV screen or computer monitor.

(Cover image by Mark Silence)