It’ s that time again when my classroom fills up with hairspray and costumes, when I spend hours and hours with students programming lights and when the last few drop cloths and paint buckets are sorted so that the set crew can practice moving our giant set pieces swiftly and silently. We’re about to begin the dreaded and equally fondly anticipated TECH WEEK. The week before our major musical is always exciting but this year even more so as we anticipate Bye Bye Birdie. For a school as steeped in tradition as NDP reaching back to the fifties is great fun! Poodle skirts and bright colors abound. Theater students can be found on stage madly running lines and tweaking performances even as the band is tuning up and cameras flash for publicity photographs.
Writing this blog has forced me to pause in the midst of the chaos to take a moment and reflect on what it all means. Two weeks ago NDP held its 2015 International Thespian Honor Society Induction and 18 new members were welcomed into our revolving repertory company. As a part of the ceremony the girls were given an opportunity to speak about how theater has affected their lives.
“Theater teaches confidence, love, tolerance, trust, and understanding. But above all, it’s about communication,” said Julia Smouse ’15, who talked about her summer experience performing Godspell at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. “While I was there it occurred to me that we have the incredible power to unify cultures and transform society into something better through the art of theater. Connecting with people from around the world was partly overwhelming but very gratifying. The beauty of live theatre will never cease to captivate me, whether I am onstage or in the seats. There is magic there, both in applauding and in graciously accepting our own applause.”
Nicoletta Minutella ‘15 talked about her experience working on Bye Bye Birdie. “As thespians, we have the obligation to be story tellers and to paint a vision for audiences. The ability to draw audiences deeper into the emotions of the human experience is an indescribable one. I believe that we need music, movies, plays, or musicals. Whether you are the hopeful Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a headstrong Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, we all connect and we strive to be aware of our mutual humanity. Through the grace of the arts, we can visualize the ups and downs of each individual person and relate to one another in hopes of creating a smaller, brighter world.
These days I not only work with our girls, but I am the co- director of the Cappies, an organization of twenty area public and private schools that promotes high school theater and journalism throughout the year and culminates in an awards gala in the spring at the Hippodrome. Often friends look at me quizzically when I turn down yet another invitation in favor of rehearsal. They question how I can have spent over 35 years working most days and weekends with teenagers. The answer is simple. I work with Theater kids. They are a different breed; a crazy combination of hope, joy, passion, fearlessness and anxiety. They care deeply and give generously. They believe that they can change and be changed through art. They truly are what Shakespeare called, the “stuff that dreams are made on.” Come home to NDP next weekend for Bye Bye Birdie to see for yourself!
Tickets for Bye Bye Birdie can be purchased by clicking here or at the doors.