• The Lance

LHS Students Navigate Distanced Theatre

By Annabelle Reynolds

While this year has made in-person performances virtually impossible, La Follette theatre has found a way to still give students the opportunity to participate in the dramatic arts. In the past, the La Follette theatre program has put on a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. With the coronavirus looming, the only way for a fall play to be possible is over Zoom.

What I Want to Say But Never Will, by Alan Haehnel, is a series of monologues submitted by real teenagers all over the United States -- all things they would like to be able to tell someone but don’t have the courage to. Guided by the two narrators, Tziah McNair (12) and Annabelle Reynolds (12), other actors were able to portray the thoughts and feelings of teenagers everywhere. The list of topics included mental health struggles, drug abuse, parental neglect, loss, and other extremely difficult issues. In addition to the monologues from the actors, La Follette music and arts students recorded music to be played during the production.

With the play taking place over Zoom, the cast had mostly small group and one-on-one rehearsals with the director, Sam White. The cast and crew had to troubleshoot problems they never even had to think about before. They worked on figuring out how to navigate acting through a screen, without having that physical contact and chemistry with their fellow actors. They struggled with WIFI connectivity, audio, and video quality that came with everyone’s devices. Nonetheless, they were able to work through their problems and put together a cohesive show.

Behind the scenes, the stage crew was busy as ever. “Their [crew’s] main focus was to liven things up for the play,” stage manager McKenna Howard (12) said. “Sound effects, lighting placement, visual backgrounds… basically bringing ideas to the table.” While the crew wasn’t able to be quite as hands-on as they have been in the past, they were still a big part of the show. “It was their job to think it and get it done, which showed the crew responsibility we’ve never seen before, and also giving them an opportunity to have it be their show,” Howard continued.

While there was an excellent amount of student contribution, the production wouldn’t have been possible without the adults that helped make it happen. Samuel White, the director, worked tirelessly to mentor and oversee the production that brought joy to everyone involved. Mark Penisten, the technical producer, worked to make sure we had a cohesive video; he recorded the whole show and put the audio and video together. Finally, the technical director, Kelly Clobes, worked with the stage crew and delivered materials to actors such as microphones and green screens.

While life has obviously been very different in the theatre world, it’s great to see that art is still happening and that high schoolers are still creating. What I Want to Say But Never Will gave students the opportunity to make something that matters, that will bring people together, and maybe even encourage the audience to say something they thought they never could.

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