Kieto Mahaniah ’16 watched as the two actors cast in his upcoming DramaLab swayed together to a classical dance in an attempt to build chemistry between their respective characters. After 15 awkward minutes of accidentally stepping on each other’s toes, the actors suddenly executed a perfect twirl, showing how much more comfortable they were with their roles and with each other. Mahaniah recounted this moment to The Phillipian, confessing that he loves these small moments as a director.
“For me, my inspiration comes from the actors. I will have a basic vision of what I want a show to look like, and then I watch the auditions and cast the show based on that vision. Then the first time the actors read through the script, I usually close my eyes and listen. And that’s where the inspiration happens, because every actor brings their own twist to their lines – every actor interprets their line differently – and how these actors say their lines is where I draw my inspiration from most of the time,” said Mahaniah.
While Mahaniah first tried directing his Lower Fall, he began acting in the third grade as a mandatory extracurricular activity. Mahaniah quickly developed a passion for the art, however, and chose to continue performing in small productions throughout middle school.
“When I was little, it was just fun being part of a show and being on stage. But really, [what drew me to acting was] the community aspect of it, because you’re working on something together with the same purpose as other artists. And you don’t get that very often – so many artists working together for that one goal,” said Mahaniah.
When Mahaniah came to Andover, his love for acting drew him immediately to the DramaLabs. Mahaniah saw his first DramaLab show Junior Fall, after which he auditioned for the next round of plays and got a role.
“The most memorable moment of my first DramaLab has actually sort of shaped how I’ve approached this school since then,” said Mahaniah. “Before my first show, I’m going through my character, I’m practicing my lines and then Lane [Unsworth ’15] says, ‘Stop. Don’t read your lines. Be your character, be yourself and let all of your energy out.’ And that was amazing because after that, I went insane on stage. That message has really resided with me for the rest of my career up until now – to just get out there and do things.”
Mahaniah will bring that approach to his new role as a Producer – a position he hopes to use to introduce more serious plays into the Theatre Department.
“I want to create a safer place within the department to try more obscure and abstract shows, because DramaLabs are very humorous… since we’re trying to get people to watch it and laugh,” said Mahaniah. “I want to try to create a space with a more serious atmosphere [because] like any art, [DramaLabs are] a great way to express yourself. And if we only use comedy within theater, once you move beyond Andover, you’ll think that theater only involves comedy.”
In addition to his goal of expanding the type of shows produced, Mahaniah looks forward to expanding his directing skills with the help of his Co-Producers.
“We’re all pretty good friends already. I’ve directed Foster, and I’ve worked with Erica in shows. Within our team, I hope we will work together effectively, efficiently and that we’re able to work off each other. Like I know that Erica has a completely different directing style than I do, and I want to work with that, as I learn from her and she learns from me,” said Mahaniah.