Photos from our Readers’ Theatre

Tuesday evening, we had our annual Readers’ Theatre – this year a re-incarnation of the Pink Panther.  We had the audience rolling in laughter. A Readers’ Theatre is just like any other show except the actors read the lines instead of memorizing them. It leads to very amusing situations when Jacques Clouseau says things like, “Wait, I can’t find my line” or when Javis, dancing the tango with Clouseau, can’t read the script because Clouseau is pushing his arm up and down.

A Readers’ Theatre is a great experience and a lot of fun. Here’s a glimpse of what ours looked like. (All photos courtesy of Jonathan Steffan.)

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This is not a high school show. This is a show.

For better or worse, there’s a stigma on high school drama.

There’s an expectation that it’s all about inexperienced actors getting their time on the stage. There will be awkward pauses, missed lines, prompted lines, and generally a story line which the audience won’t think about in the morning.

I produce high school drama, but what I described above does not describe what I try to achieve on the stage.

For one, I think it is selling high school kids short to think that they can’t move an audience, make them think, and impact them in meaningful ways.

They can.

I’ve seen it.

I never make excuses for my actors. I never say, “Well, their high schoolers, give them a break.”

No, don’t give them a break. Expect more from them. Give them challenging material. Show them that they can do more than silly comedy. That they can reach into the audience and affect them in ways that are unimaginable. I’ve seen it. Many times. Many many times. And if there are drama teachers out their selling their students short, well, then that’s too bad.

I’ve known drama teachers who have seen some of the stuff that we have produced and have told me that they wish the school administration would let them produce stuff like that. But they only want sweet little meaningless shows so it becomes not much more than a photo-op for parents. Disney. Disney. And the like.

We need to give kids more credit. I’ve seen it many times.

A couple years back, we produced a short play entitled “I once was blind” which brought tears to peoples eyes. We did a piece which touched on suicide called “No, in spite of itself” which was poignant and meaningful, hitting kids and adults  on a level usually not seen in high school.

And this year I’ve seen our award-winning play, “Words to Say at the End of the World,” speak to countless people. I had one parent recently asked me for the video because she was so moved and the piece reminded her of her relationship with her daughter.

Acting is acting. It doesn’t matter what someone’s age is, we need to expect great things, demand great things, write great things, produce great things, insist on great things – so the audience will walk away moved and changed, not just with a silly smirk because of another high school production.

When we demand more,  we get more.

That’s my point of view.

I Love Watching Students Do Drama

Had a great time tonight watching two one-act plays performed by all high school freshmen and sophomores girls with one junior boy thrown in the mix.

It was a lot of fun. It’s interesting to see the different levels of performance. The newbies who are nervous and wondering how to act on stage after their lines finish. The more experienced ones who steal the show and command attention. The slurred lines and frayed looks. The small production hiccups. It’s raw theater at its best in terms of being raw. There’s something honest about it. And when the moment peaks, the audience finally gets into the act and the rewards are easily visible on their faces.

Curtain calls are, of course, the best. The beaming faces, the sense of accomplishment, the relief, the euphoria, the hi-fives. I’m truly proud of all they accomplished, and I wasn’t even the director, for once. It did feel good just to sit back and enjoy with no other responsibilities.

Have you caught a high school drama recently? Check one out near you. Well worth it.