Hollywood, A Hello Kitty Bat, and High School Musical Auditions: First Drama Labs of 2022 Stresses Collaborative Theater

With chatter and music filling the air, the lights in the Theater Classroom slowly dimmed to a blue-tinged light. As silence overtook the room, figures in the dark slowly crept up to the stage. Hushed, the audience waited eagerly, anticipating the start of the first Drama Lab of 2022.

Sandwiching its three acts between interactive games and skits, the first Drama Labs of 2022 premiered this past Friday. Performances comprised of “History with a Dash of Hollywood,” “Rental,” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Drama Lab”––a critique on the role of education in the movie industry, a comedy skit involving a rented boyfriend and a Hello Kitty baseball bat, and a recreation of Sharpay and Ryan’s iconic audition, respectively. According to Aleisha Roberts ’22, audience/performer interaction added to a collaborative environment of the production. 

“Things like [audience interaction] really help to build the theater community, and make it a little less scary for people who don’t know whether they want to get involved yet… the whole point of Drama Labs is experimental theater, a low-stakes opportunity to get involved in the theater department. Seeing people with minimal to no experience coming in and putting on what I think was a really high-quality show is always really great to see,” said Roberts. 

Audience member Elvira “EV” Heck ’25 also commented on the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the production. According to Heck, the inclusivity made the audience and performers feel more comfortable in their respective settings. 

“I didn’t expect it to be such an accepting environment, because in the Drama Lab you’re entirely surrounded by the audience, which can be rather intimidating. But there was so much encouragement and cheering. The whole experience felt really inclusive and inviting,” said Heck. 

Prince LaPaz ’24, one of the performers in “Rental,” also noted that the energy of the producers, directors, and actors made the event distinctly open and welcoming. Even while facing stage fright, their motivation encouraged him to perform at his best. 

“I originally had my lines all memorized, but right before the stage I completely forgot them, which was terrifying. But the entire cast motivated me, and when I went on stage I remembered them all,” said LaPaz. 

Due to virtual learning during the first week back after Winter break, the cast ran into a few challenges with scheduling and rehearsing and had to push the performance back a week. However, according to “High School Musical: The Musical: The Drama Lab” director Daniel Zou ’23, the actors adapted quickly and took the performance into their own hands.

“I was a director, and I think it was more of a supporting role than an actual directing role, because the cast was awesome and they did everything on their own as far as the choreography, memorizing the lines, and everything else…Since it was my first time directing, I had no idea what to expect. But everyone did a great job as far as it came to learning the choreography– I didn’t have to do anything other than get them together. It was really their show,” said Zou.

LaPaz echoed Zou’s sentiment, expressing that the warmth of his cast and crew mates helped him feel more comfortable experimenting with his acting. He brought up an anecdote of when a moment of improvisation made its way into the final performance.

I had a line where I said, “Grave, in a secluded grave—no—grove,” that part wasn’t on the script. But when I was rehearsing my lines, I accidentally said it, and I liked it so much I included it in the actual performance,” said LaPaz.