Andover Celebrates Theater for 225th Anniversary

Phillips Academy is known far and wide for its academic rigor and its students’ incredible work. The school’s World Language and English Departments are among the best in the nation. But, above all, PA’s Theater Department has been, and continues to be, one of the Academy’s most praised areas. If you don’t believe it, take a look at some of the knockout shows done in recent years. The most impressive performance that sticks out in any PA community member’s mind was 2000’s Death of a Salesman, directed by Instructor in English and Theater Jean St. Pierre. Many regarded the show as one of the the best productions ever performed on a PA stage. Ian Goldberg ’00 shone in the role of Willy Loman, surpassing any expectations for a high school Senior. Goldberg portrayed the torment and anguish that his character went through with such conviction that at times he was Willy Loman. St. Pierre did what she always did, cranking out a thought-provoking and beautiful piece of theatre. Incredible supporting acting by other members of the Class of 2000 ensured the success of this difficult and emotionally complex play. Continuing to October 2001, the Shakespeare Repertory took campus by surprise in a performance not easily forgotten. An experimental and, in many instances, shocking collection of scenes, it showed the zeal of up-and-coming PA actors, many of which were members of the Class of 2004. The Repertory consisted of seven standout scenes from Shakespeare’s work and was set in the Underwood Courtyard. Humorous and dramatic scenes set the stage for an especially gory rendition of a scene from Titus Andronicus, and made the evening’s performance one of the bolder ones in recent PA theatre history. Young directors took chances that few are able to, and in the extraordinary Underwood Courtyard, anything was possible for these budding student artists. Cabaret, directed by Tanner Efinger ’02, was another amazing show put on by PA’s prestigious Theater Department. The spring Drama Lab production for 2002, it mixed humor, drama, sex, and religion into a masterpiece of a musical. With an enormous cast, a huge set, and daunting orchestrations, Cabaret was an incredibly courageous undertaking by all who were involved. Standout performances by Taryn Zucker ’03, Steve Travierso ’04, and Paull Randt ’04 made this performance one that would go down in the history books at PA. The brilliant singing, acting, and dancing were accented by racy costumes and an over-the-top set featuring two curvaceous females. Regarded by some as the most risqué of productions that the school has produced, it was certainly an eye-opener. However, this wasn’t the only show in the spotlight in 2002. The spring of 2002 saw another brilliant production, this one a modern-day rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Starring Pat O’Brien ’02 and Alex Colaianni ’03 as Romeo and Juliet, this show wowed audiences in a different way than Cabaret. The sensitivity and realism that the actors brought to the stage under the direction of Kevin Heelan was incredible, with stellar supporting performances by Boo Littlefield ’03 and Harry Boileau ’02. This play really showed off what PA actors could do, especially with the wise guidance of Heelan. Audience members were moved nearly to tears by the end of this outstanding performance of PA drama. The most recent notable performance here at PA was a second St. Pierre and Arthur Miller play to make a lasting impression on PA theatre: All My Sons. With Josh Williams ’03, Chiara Motley ’03, Boo Littlefield ’03, and Steve Travierso ’04 leading the way, the plot kept the audience intrigued while the characters underwent a series of emotional highs and lows, finally ending in the climactic suicide of Joe Keller, played by Travierso. St. Pierre’s directing skills have ceased to surprise the PA theatre community, as her plays ring true in the ears of all who attend her shows. The character development displayed by the actors was perhaps the most impressive aspect of the show, though the extraordinary set, designed by Theatre Department Chair Bruce Bacon, was nearly as breathtaking. Where does the Theatre Department go from here? How can it continue to pump out such amazing spectacles? Talented actors, brilliant directors, and new and exciting ideas are the lifeblood of the Department, which never ceases to impress all who attend its performances.