In the coming months, Hannah Berkowitz ’17, Janet Conklin ’17, and Kalina Ko ’17, a trio of dedicated theater students, will assume their new positions as the Producers. The Producers’ tasks include acquiring the necessary copyright for weekly DramaLab plays, planning the Grasshopper Night show in Fall Term during Family Weekend, and coordinating the Theatre Department’s “Steve” awards in Spring Term. The outgoing 2015-2016 Producers, Foster Conklin ’16, Kieto Mahaniah ’16, and Erica Nork ’16, selected Hannah Berkowitz, Janet Conklin, and Kalina Ko to assume their roles.
Hannah Berkowitz ’17
As soon as she saw the small, all-black Theatre Classroom, Hannah Berkowitz ’17 knew she wanted to become a Producer, even before attending Andover. Berkowitz was introduced to the concept of the Producers during her tour of Andover, as she explained in an interview with The Phillipian.
“My tour guide brought us down to the basement of [George Washington Hall], and she pointed out the DramaLab classroom. She [said], ‘And these are the DramaLabs.’ She explained what they were, and she said that there were three Seniors called the Producers, and they run the whole thing. And I said to my dad, who was with me, I looked at him and said, ‘I’m going to be one of those people’,” said Berkowitz.
Although Berkowitz’s first time directing was during her Lower year, she has been acting since she was three-years old and participated in plays as an actress and as a stage manager in her previous school.
“I’ll always love acting because it’s what I’ve been doing for forever, but I think the more I direct, the more I learn about how to do it well and how to make something amazing out of it that it’ll start to eclipse acting a little bit. When you’re on stage, and you’re playing a character, for me at least, my mind shuts off. Like it’s no longer Hannah, it’s this person that I’m playing, so that’s a cool experience, just not being yourself for an hour,” said Berkowitz.
Berkowitz enjoys the freedom that theater allows her. In “Night of the Living Relatives,” a DramaLab she directed, the characters turn into zombies over the course of the play. Berkowitz concluded the play with an explosive spaghetti food fight.
“I remember once for a DramaLab I directed, I had my actors throw spaghetti all over the Theatre Classroom and things like that, the really absurd, weird things that you can do on stage that you wouldn’t be able to do in real life, that’s fun,” said Berkowitz.
As a Producer, Berkowitz hopes to increase the number of students attending and participating in DramaLabs.
“A couple years ago, the DramaLabs used to have lines out the doors [of George Washington Hall] for people who wanted to come in there because [the DramaLabs] were fun and because they were casual and you wanted to see your friends. You wanted to see what silly things people would come up with that week. I want to see that happen again,” said Berkowitz.
Berkowitz is also excited to work alongside her fellow Producers, Janet Conklin ’17, and Kalina Ko ’17.
“Janet and I were in the show ‘Proof’ together which was the winter play this year. She was the stage manager, and I was acting in it, and it was just so much fun working with her. We just clicked super well; the two of us have complementary traits. I think Kalina is just the most hard-working and interesting person. She’s so nice, she’s so fun, and she’s so talented. We don’t know each other as well as I know Janet, but I’m very excited to get closer to her,” said Berkowitz.
Janet Conklin ’17
Lauren W. Lee
With pride and anticipation, Janet Conklin ’17 watched her first directed DramaLab unfold before her eyes in the Theatre Classroom. The play featured Grace Anthony ’17 visiting the halfway house at which her sister, played by Annie Lord ’19, was staying. As Conklin described in an interview with The Phillipian, this DramaLab, titled “Halfway,” was a special achievement for her in her theater career.
“I had never directed anything before, but seeing [my play] come together was really rewarding. To have people say, ‘Wow, that turned out really good,’ and to see all of my efforts executed well was a really fun moment in the start of my DramaLab career. [Although the DramaLab was about] a heavy topic, that’s what I like about theater, because it’s a really good medium to explore themes that are otherwise not often discussed,” said Conklin.
Conklin started participating in the DramaLabs during her Lower spring when she was cast in a play written by Lane Unsworth ’15. According to Conklin, her brother was instrumental in encouraging her to participate in the DramaLabs.
“[My brother and I are] really close so we try to encourage each other… He knew that I was interested in theater but wasn’t able to act in larger productions, so he encouraged me to get into DramaLabs. He would always text me or call me and make me come to auditions,” said Conklin.
During her time at Andover, Conklin has been an active member of the theater community. Although she was cut from “Facing Our Truth” during her Junior year, the experience allowed her to become more involved with backstage tech. Conklin has since assisted numerous Theatre 920 Productions on campus as well as other events such as the annual Grasshopper Night.
“I was made the assistant stage-manager [of “Facing Our Truth”] and it was really cool to call the shots and have everything pulled together. That’s how I fell in love with theater, and in particular working behind the scenes rather than acting,” said Conklin.
Conklin plans to bring her knowledge in all aspects of theater to the role as a new DramaLab Producer to continue to spread her love for theater. She hopes to make DramaLabs and other plays a more inclusive environment for all students on campus.
“There’s kind of this stigma around theater. I feel like around particular groups of theater, there’s this ‘theater kid’ who a lot of people might be intimidated by… It’s hard if you don’t do theater to get involved and feel comfortable in that situation. So I think to break down that barrier and to bring in a lot of other kids who wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable entering in the theater world – like athletes, post-graduates, or [Juniors] – would be a great addition,” said Conklin.
As a producer, Conklin is ready to take on the responsibilities of working with a large group of students, and with the two other newly-selected DramaLab Producers, Hannah Berkowitz ’17 and Kalina Ko ’17. Having already met to discuss their upcoming year, Conklin is confident in a successful year for the theater department.
“Producers do so much outside of DramaLabs, in that DramaLabs is a central feature of [the position], but really we’re the student connection to the theatre department… I’ve stage-managed for [Berkowitz and Ko] as they’ve acted in plays and they’re both really great. I’m really excited to work with them,” said Conklin.
Kalina Ko ’17
Walking into the small Theatre Classroom as a Junior, Kalina Ko ’17 found a seat within the tightly packed audience to watch her first DramaLab. Suddenly, the Producers ran onto stage and began a countdown, setting off a deafening, wild cheer around Ko. Ko recalled this moment in an interview with The Phillipian as one of her fondest memories involving theater at Andover.
“Half the audience were freshmen who’d never seen a DramaLab, who didn’t know any of the people performing, but we were all still cheering, so it was a very supportive and strong environment that was very crazy, but fun. It was a very inspiring and exciting moment,” said Ko.
Although Ko has never acted in a traditional DramaLab, she has been involved in DramaLabs at Andover since her performance in “The Vagina Monologues” during her Lower year. Centered around feminism, “The Vagina Monologues” first introduced Ko to using theater for social activism, a theme she has begun exploring during her time at Andover.
“In lower year I came to recognize the restrictions that the visual aspects of theater can have on the art form. I think that sort of sparked my interest in social activism. I’d also say that my first big realization of my own asianess came through theatre. Obviously certain roles have certain requirements for how a performer looks and whatnot. Upon recognizing that I became a lot more interested in conversations of race. That led to more interest in other areas of social activism like gender, like sexuality,” said Ko.
Ko values the supportive community surrounding DramaLabs, and believes that the DramaLabs are a great opportunity for students to become involved in theater.
“[DramaLabs are] a really low pressure environment for people to just perform and have fun,” said Ko. “I definitely think one of the most important aspects is the community around DramaLabs. That community includes the audience members, the performers, the directors, anyone who’s ever been to the DramaLabs or just knows what it is, really. That community is always so supportive and positive. Everyone is always cheering even if the show was a total disaster. That community is really the heart of the DramaLabs,” Ko said.
As a Producer, Ko plans to add a variety of genres to DramaLabs as well as unconventional approaches to theater and performance as a whole.
“Some people are good at comedy, some people are good at drama. Some people are good at something in-between. Right now we have a very comedy-based DramaLab. It would be really nice to see some different styles whether that’s drama, whether that’s play readings, whether that’s more shows like ‘The Naked I.’ Also, at the beginning of the year, we had Dakoury [Godo-Solo ’17] and Cam Mesinger [’16] perform some poetry in between some of the shows. I think that was really interesting,” said Ko.
Ko is very excited to start working alongside the other Producers, Janet Conklin ’17 and Hannah Berkowitz ’17, next year.
“Janet and Hannah are so genuinely invested in the well-being of the DramaLabs and in the development of the DramaLabs… I don’t know them that well yet but I know they’re both incredibly talented and have amazing ideas on how to make the DramaLabs even better than this year! I’ll definitely be sad to see Erica, Foster, and Keito go. They’ve been so instrumental in moving the DramaLabs forward this year. But I can’t wait to see how we can shape the DramaLabs!” said Ko.
Editor’s Note: Kalina Ko is an Arts & Leisure Editor for The Phillipian.