Theater Students Take Advantage of Long Weekend to Travel to New York and Connecticut

This weekend, a group of students traveled to participate in the third annual Eight Schools Theater Festival at Choate Rosemary Hall. The 16 students traveled to New York City before they went to Choate, where they saw two theater productions. The Eight Schools Theatre Festival is an annual theater festival that takes place at one of the eight participating prep schools. At the event, each school brings one show to perform. There are also workshops during the day for other students who come along. According to Instructor in Theater Mark Efinger, Andover hosted the first ever Eight Schools Theater Festival three years ago. Originally the group was only meant to travel to Choate. Efinger said, “Last Monday the whole trip expanded. We realized that there was a chance to take these kids to see a Broadway show and an experimental theater way off Broadway production in Brooklyn, both with former PA actors.” Pat Brady ’11, one of the students who attended the festival, said, “I signed up to go even though I wasn’t in the show that we brought to Choate. I was really interested in seeing Choate’s theater facilities, to see what they do.” Efinger said that while most people compare Andover to Exeter, Choate was actually much more similar to Andover in terms of its theater facilities and programs. “Their theater program is a bit different then ours. Their students can declare a concentration in theatre, allowing them more specific classes and perhaps fewer requirements in other areas. Our extra-curricular theater [program], however, seems more prolific,” said Efinger. Katy Svec ’10, Theater Producer for the 09-10 school year, said, “Choate’s black box theater is smaller than Steinbach but their theater classroom is way bigger. It was a good chance to learn about the other schools and I realized that we have such a great program with the dramalabs.” Miranda Haymon ’12 said, “We first went to a Broadway show then went to a show in Brooklyn that was in a friend of Mark [Efinger]’s apartment.” The group saw the play “Race” on Broadway, starring James Spader, who attended Andover. “The David Mamet play, Race, was a very provocative play with James Spader that dealt with pertinent issues concerning race in America. It had a very political agenda to it which might have detracted from its merit as art. I thought it was quite good,” said Brady. Efinger added, “After the show, James Spader came out to the front row and talked to us about the production, working with David Mamet as writer and director, his roles in Boston Legal and contrasting it to this show, about days at Andover and after.” The off-broadway show in Brooklyn was produced in an apartment. Svec said, “Straight after meeting James Spader, we raced off to Brooklyn to see a really odd play called ‘Who’s Afraid Of A Hot Glass Cat Named Desire.’ It was a mix of ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘Glass Menagerie’ all in the setting of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’” Brady said, “The play had amazingly capable actors and took some daring and provocative risks with content. But overall, it was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen and I think most of the students who saw it would agree with that. However, it was a valuable experience to have seen it and the different types of theater.” Efinger said, “Kelsey Seipser ’02 was performing in “Who’s Afraid Of A Hot Glass Cat Named Desire?” and after the play she came out to talk to us about this avant-garde show and how she and her fellow performers created it. “After one afternoon in New York City, we had experienced the two far extremes of professional theatre,” he added. After an Italian dinner, an Alan Rickman sighting, and a night of sleep, the students left for Choate. Haymon said, “We got up early Sunday to go to Choate, and the group took part in workshops that included Mask Design, Lyrical Interpretation, and Shakespeare and Viewpoints while Chris Batchelder, Jackie Murray and Rei Konolige were in tech for their Dramalab.” Brady took part in the Shakespeare workshop and said, “The workshop was led by a teacher from Exeter and I learned about different ways to portray Shakespeare.” Andover brought a Dramalab to the festival called “Lift and Bang” directed by Lynx Mitchell ’10 and starring Jackie Murray ’13 and Chris Batchelder ’11. “Jackie Murray really shined in a challenging role opposite a charming Batchelder. In the play, Jackie played a woman working at a bakery and Chris was her ex-lover who came into her shop. They were both very tempted to rekindle their flame but in the end Chris’ character had moved on to another woman and it was very sad for Jackie,” said Brady. “Deerfield’s [production] had very little movement but it was very funny and talkative. Exeter’s [production] had no movement but was very intense,” said Brady. Efinger said, “I was thrilled to see that in the three years we have been doing the festival, that the general quality of these short one act plays that have all been student directed and produced, has gone up considerably. These plays are quite similar to our weekly Dramalab series. I was delighted to see how much the quality had improved.” Haymon said, “the highlight of the trip for me was the ride back from Choate. By the end of the two days, we had all become really close and could easily talk to one another for that long trip back to Andover. It was such an awesome group.” Efinger said, “We had a great group of kids on this trip who all are very interested in learning as much as they can about this art form and how it works as a professional aspect of our community. Some actually aspire to the profession, while some want to be knowledgeable patrons of the theatre. I do not think we could have devised a more perfect set of experiences for one weekend than this.”