Emily Ndiokho ’18: The Brains Behind the Scenes
With bright eyes and an eager smile, Emily Ndiokho ’18 entered Tang Theatre, ready to begin her first experience as a light operator for “The Nutcracker’s” tech crew. Despite her lack of previous experience in theater, Ndiokho enthusiastically approached her new role in the Nutcracker’s tech crew — an experience which, according to Ndiokho, would lead to her passionate love for theater.
“It all started by mistake; my [Junior] year, my roommate was involved with “The Nutcracker” and she told me how someone in their tech crew dropped out. Even though I came in as a freshman to the production and I had no idea what was going on. They said, ‘Here’s a giant light and now you’re going to operate it,’ so I was like, ‘Okay! Let’s go!’ Since then, I have loved just being a part of something bigger and seeing so many people,” said Ndiokho.
After “The Nutcracker,” Ndiokho continued her passion by working on the spring production of “Twelfth Night” in her Junior year as a light-board operator. She also took a directing class during her Lower spring, which prompted her to get involved with directing DramaLabs.
“I learned the actual process of directing, how it’s not just telling people what to do, but figuring out how to tell a story through your actors and the script that you’re given. You have to be aware of other people, how your audience will perceive something, how you want your audience to perceive something, and also how your actors are going to do something,” said Ndiokho.
As someone with experience in both the hands-on and directing aspects of theater, Ndiokho has grown to appreciate the bonds and teamwork that theater production facilitates.
“I love seeing how different people work together. Usually in a cast, sometimes you have people who are friends, but most of the time you have people who have never met each other or just kind of know of someone, and then seeing how after four or five rehearsals they can actually become close friends is so rewarding,” said Ndiokho.
Besides fostering new relationships between those who participate in DramaLabs, Ndiokho also hopes, as a DramaLab Producer, to welcome students of any background, especially those who come to Andover with little to no theater experience.
“The purpose of theater, I feel, is to get into something you don’t know because you never know which character you’re going to play, you never know which script you’re going to get, you never know how the show’s going to run, so having a place where everyone’s a novice in something is really comforting, especially for a new student. From when I first came to Andover, and then as an older, returning student, I have found that it’s amazing to see how so many different people from their various backgrounds can come together and just put on something magical,” said Ndiokho.
Editor’s Note: Emily Ndiokho is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.
Justice Robinson ’18: Transcending Boundaries in Theater
Sporting a Harry Potter robe while sitting on a rocking chair, Justice Robinson ’18 simultaneously reads from a book, telling a story of a man and woman getting married during her first DramaLab as a Junior. All of a sudden Robinson’s friends cheer and shout from the audience. According to Robinson, this was an experience that led her to continue to want to pursue theatre.
“They tell you to not cheer during a performance because it throws people off, but my friends were like ‘Oh my god!’ It was really fun. I think that’s one part of it that made me want to continue with it, the support of my friends validating that I’m good at something, which I already knew that I was pretty good at, but validation doesn’t hurt,” said Robinson.
First introduced to DramaLabs her Junior year, Robinson believes that Andover has provided her a more well-rounded theater experience beyond the realm of acting.
“It’s just been an exponential amount of growth… Coming into Andover, I considered myself solely an actor. Now, I kind of consider myself more just a theater person. When I go off to college, I want to do a lot of directing and playwriting and also acting, but also the backstage stuff, and coming in, I would’ve never ever even thought about that,” said Robinson.
Robinson believes Andover has given her valuable opportunities that revamped her love of acting from elementary school.
“I’ve always just been a very expressive child. I like taking on roles and stretching how I can perform and how I can portray the character… [At Andover] we get to do so many cool things that I never experienced before coming here. I was a stage manager this year for “A Chorus Line,” and the technology that we have, that we do the lights and the borders and everything with it, was just amazing. We could really get a glimpse of what real shows are like on Broadway and other parts of the world,” said Robinson.
As a Producer in the following school year, Robinson hopes to promote greater inclusion and increase participation in theatre workshops and performances.
“I think theater is one section of Andover that could really be extrapolated into the campus because everything can be expressed through it. There’s so many ways that we express ourselves here through writing, art, sports, or academics, and I think theater’s just one of the many facets that I’m hoping to bring more and more people into,” said Robinson.
Robinson looks forward to collaborating with her two Co-Producers, Emily Ndiokho ’18 and Natalie Warren ’18, to make a positive impact on campus through the intersection of current events and theatre.
“[My co-Producers are] both very passionate about theater and expression. Regardless of political beliefs, we’re in a very interesting time in the world where so many things are happening, and the DramaLabs is one way to show how it’s affecting it. That can get really wild, but I’m hoping that we could attack it in a positive and informative way,” said Robinson.
Natalie Warren ’18: Acting Outside the Box
With with excitement and pride, Natalie Warren ’18 watched as the first DramaLab she had ever directed began in the Theatre Classroom during her Lower year. Titled “Whatever,” the DramaLab featured Ria Vieira ’19 and Suzanne Kalkstein ’19 playing two middle-aged women as they moved frantically around the stage, depicting a scene in an apartment where the two main characters argue about one woman’s toxic breakup. According to Warren, this experience marked her favorite DramaLab memory to date.
“I had really no idea what I was doing, I was kind of just taking example of previous directors that I’d had as an actor, and it was really cool to be able to design a set and tell [the actors] what to do and come up with ideas for movements [that] they could make and block them. And being able to design lighting for that show was really cool. Just having that first directing experience, being able to maneuver every aspect of the show [made it my favorite DramaLab memory],” said Warren.
For Warren, the most valuable aspect of the DramaLabs is its encouraging and open atmosphere, which provides students with opportunities to step outside their comfort zones and try new things as Warren did with directing.
“I think my favorite thing about the DramaLabs is that they make theater fun for anyone because you don’t have to have ever acted before, ever directed before, ever done tech before. You can just go in, sign up, and chances are you’ll be in a show, and you’ll be able to have this amazing, low pressure, fun experience with a bunch of peers your own age in theater, and I think that’s something super special,” said Warren.
Warren was first inspired to become a Producer after seeing a student-run production during her Junior year orientation.
“[During] my [Junior] orientation, I saw the Producers for that year put up a show at the [Junior] orientation talent showcase and I was like, ‘Wow. I want to do that. That’s so cool, they’re all having so much fun doing something they love and having a huge hand in something that they love, which is theater…’ I’m so happy to finally say that I’ve accomplished my dream,” said Warren.
As a Producer the next school year, Warren hopes to continue building upon the encouraging and stress-free atmosphere of the DramaLabs, while also working towards incorporating a few longer and themed shows into the program.
“I’d like to see longer [and] more themed shows going up because audiences can get confused if there’s one show that’s really sad and then another show that comes in and is just really happy. [‘Alice in Wonderland’ that] just went up [this past Friday] was a really fun experience… But other than that, I love the DramaLabs and I want to continue making them as good as they can be,” said Warren.