Four Schools Take Center Stage

The Eight Schools Association performed one-act plays on stage last Saturday at the first ever Eight Schools Theatre Festival, an interscholastic drama festival similar to those put on by many public and parochial schools. Although eight schools were invited, only four schools could make it: Andover, Exeter, Choate and St. Pauls. “Andover just doesn’t fit in at any of those [public school] festivals,” explained Instructor in Theatre and Dance Mark Efinger. So Andover students took things into their own hands, organizing what should turn out to be a great tradition in prep school theatre. The first annual Eight Schools Theatre Festival was an overwhelming success, despite a fifteen-minute late start and a limited turnout. In the morning, buses from Exeter, Choate and St. Paul’s arrived carrying many young and excited student actors, directors and behind the scenes tech workers, as well as distinguished theatre faculty from each school. “The [Drama Lab] Producers collectively came up with the idea of a theatre festival in September,” said Abby Colella ’08, a Producer. “We contacted the eight schools in December and they all said that they were interested. But, due to technical and logistical details, only four out of eight schools could participate this year.” “We’d love it if more schools came next year,” added Molly Shoemaker ’08, a Producer. The public performance was an impressive testament to each school’s individual theatrical talent and enthusiasm. Each school prepared a one-act play, which they performed in Tang for a small crowd. Phillips Exeter Academy opened with the popular David Ives piece, “Sure Thing,” a very funny play about two people—Bill and Betty—meeting each other for the first time. However, whenever a bell rings, the couple restarts their conversation. Exonian actors Sean Beckett ’08 (Bill) and Keely Covo ’08 (Betty) played their respective characters impressively, knowing how to be funny, yet subtle and believable. Choate performed “Second Beam,” by Joan Ackerman, a bizarre satire on the professional audition process. Although the program listed the cast as having seven actors, there were really only three and a half important roles: the casting director who had about three lines; Jennifer, a quirky and shy young actress, who desperately needs the part; Meg, a warm-hearted professional, the opposite of the soulless Patti, a theatre diva who will do anything to make it big. Jennifer, unsure in her acting abilities and intimidated by Patti, seeks the consol of the initially reluctant, but ultimately comforting Meg, who tells Jennifer that she can get the part. The other characters included the Auditioning Diva, Auditioning Nerd and Auditioning Freak, who appear only during the musical prologue and bows, serving no purpose but a failed attempt at comic relief. “Second Beam” was by far the weakest of the four plays. St. Paul’s attempted to recapitulate David Mamet’s famous plays in ten minutes with “Speed-the-Play,” another David Ives piece. And the seven-person cast did just that, complete with Mamet’s trademark, profanity. “Speed-the-Play” was a lightning-paced, sometimes inaudible and confusing production that nonetheless pleased the festival’s audience, and St. Paul’s should be proud of it. Michaeljit Sandhu ’09 directed Andover’s contribution to the festival, “The Problem” by A.R. Gurney, a slightly longer play, but it was by no means less entertaining. This strange, hilarious play had the audience bursting with laughter from start to finish. The play opens with a pregnant woman (Colella) waddling onstage, her state extremely conspicuous, telling her husband about a “problem.” What follows is a hysterical dialogue in which the wife and her aloof, nerdy husband (Thor Shannon ’09) discuss the secretive causes of this “problem,”—everything from infidelity and elaborate disguises—leading the viewer on a large-scale, theatrical wild goose-chase. Putting all of my Andover biases aside, without a doubt, this play was the best out of the four. It was absolutely brilliant theatre and one of the greatest one-act plays I’ve ever seen. Colella and Shannon were knock-outs. I have never laughed so hard at a play before, and it is truly a shame that more people did not have the opportunity to see this magnificent gem. Hopefully next year the Eight Schools Theatre Festival will be better attended.