• November 18, 2019
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Being a member of the theatre department – Will Hollerung

If I could summarize Leesville’s theatre department in one word, I wouldn’t be able to. One word wouldn’t do it justice.

    Let’s start at the beginning of my “acting career”: I was interested in theatre, but it was something that I had never been involved in. Second semester sophomore year, I took Ms. Tarson’s Theatre I class and absolutely loved it. I felt inspired to continue studying theatre arts and performing as much as I could. I eventually auditioned for and was accepted into the Honors Theatre class, Mainstage.

    My junior year I starred in my first show, The Odd Couple, and performed with some of the best actors Leesville has to offer. The whole process of putting the show together amazed me. The auditioning, rehearsing, performing, and even the struggles of Hell Week were all so inspiring to me. I felt blessed to work alongside my peers towards the same end goal: an amazing production that we would all be proud of. Theatre students create their own little world in the school, and I loved being apart of it.

    Being an actor isn’t all spotlights and applause– life can be pretty rough. There have been days that I’ve been at the school for almost 16 hours and still have school work to do when I get home. During Show Week, SMART Lunch becomes nap and homework time. Your sleeping, eating, working, and general functioning schedules are tarnished but that’s okay. Having the opportunity to stand in front of an audience — lights shining, sweat dripping, crowd cheering — makes all of those months of preparation worth it.

    Each show I have been a part of has been uniquely special to me. I’ve been the narcissistic jerk Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple; I’ve been a spooky agent of death as the Ghost Fancier from By the Bog of Cats; I’ve been a father of a handicapped son as Ferris Layman in The Diviners; I’ve been a lovesick farmer as East in Almost, Maine; I’ve been a homeless ensemble member in Little Shop of Horrors; and I am currently the eccentric and charismatic pirate as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher.

    Acting in The Diviners was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. The show is about the mythical town of Zion, Indiana where a mentally-handicapped boy named Buddy (who has a gift for finding water) meets a wayward preacher named CC Showers. We used it as a competition piece at the International Thespian Society (ITS) Festival, so we performed it for college theatre professors, judges and actors from across the state. The show was a life-changing experience for me.      

    Performing a dramatic show comes with its own set of struggles, but hearing a college professor tell us that, because of our performance, he finally understands what the show is all about is the moment I have lived for.

    It’s not about the applause — it’s about connecting with an audience and telling a story. Making an audience laugh, cry, or emote catharsis in any way is one of the greatest moments for myself as an actor.

     As I finish writing this article, it is show week for my last Fall Play, Peter and the Starcatcher. I look back over the past shows I’ve done, and I can honestly say I don’t regret one moment of being in the theatre department.

    As I enter the final Act of my own show and the curtain closes on my acting career here at Leesville, I’ve realized now that I can summarize the department in one word: Home.

The “Hell Week” schedule

Saturday

9a.m.-7p.m.

– The Costume Parade: Actors present full costumes before the production team.

– Participants (both actors and tech) run “Cue to Cue”– a process in which the show is performed, pausing for any cue for lights, sounds, props, etc

Sunday

1-9p.m.

– Members run the show (following the Cue to Cue process) again because little was accomplished on Saturday.

Monday

7:25a.m-9p.m.

– Students attend their regular classes. During SMART Lunch, many students choose to catch up on sleep or homework.

– The department lost a day of dress rehearsal due to the number of cues left after Sunday’s practice.

– Once the leftover cues were completed, the cast practices some “rougher” parts of the show.

Tuesday

7:25a.m.-9p.m.

– Students attend their regular classes. During SMART Lunch, many students choose to catch up on sleep or homework.

– After school, the cast performs its only dress rehearsal for the show. The show was performed adequately; however, there was a lot of work to be done before opening night.

Wednesday

7:25a.m.-9p.m.

– (7:25a.m.-2:18 p.m.) Students attend their regular classes. During SMART Lunch, many students choose to catch up on sleep or homework.

– (2:30-4:30 p.m.) The cast runs the show quickly, preparing for the preview show.

– (4:30-9 p.m.) A preview show is performed. Although the crowd seemed to enjoy the show, everything that could have gone wrong, did.

Thursday

7:25a.m.-

Midnight

– (7:25 a.m.-2:18 p.m.) Students attend their regular classes. During SMART Lunch, many students choose to catch up on sleep or homework.

– (2:30-7 p.m.) The cast rests, rehearses and prepares in the hours leading to the opening show.

– (7:30-10 p.m.) Peter and the Starcatcher is performed. Although the preview night went poorly, the opening night was almost perfect.

(10 p.m.-12 a.m.) The cast travels to McDonalds for a late night snack after the show.

Friday

7:25a.m.-

Midnight

– (7:25 a.m.-2:18 p.m.) Students attend their regular classes. During SMART Lunch, many students choose to catch up on sleep or homework.

– (2:30-7 p.m.) The cast rests, rehearses and prepares in the hours leading to the opening show.

– (7:30-10 p.m.) Peter and the Starcatcher is performed again. The cast felt this was another great show.

(10 p.m.-12 a.m.) The cast travels to Flying Burrito for a late night snack after the show.

Saturday

9a.m.-

Midnight

– (9-11 a.m.) The cast and crew gathers in the Blackbox while seniors speak of their experiences with the theater department.

– (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) The cast and crew participates in a photo call– a set aside time for press and pictures before the show.

– (2-4:30 p.m.) Peter and the Starcatcher is performed.

– (4:30-7p.m.) The cast and crew has a few hours to rest before the final show.

– (7-10 p. m.) Peter and the Starcatcher is performed one final time.

– After the final performance, the cast and crew travel to IHOP (a tradition). The group reminisces on the good times, the bad times, the mistakes and the laughs. Months of studying, preparing and not sleeping are over.

Sunday

Most cast members used Sunday to catch up on hours of lost sleep. After dedicating approximately 95 hours during only Hell Week, the theater department rests peacefully.

Q&A with Katrina Tarson, theatre teacher

When you were younger, did you ever see yourself working with theatre, specifically teaching?

I knew, probably in high school, that I definitely wanted to do something with theatre. Then it was probably toward the end of my senior year in high school that I decided that teaching theatre, and specifically high school theatre, was definitely what I wanted to pursue in college and what I wanted to do with my life.

What made you want to be a theatre teacher?

A lot of it was the way that theatre impacted me when I was younger. I did a lot of learning of life skills through theatre, and so I thought if I could learn things like organization, responsibility and teamwork through something that was so fun, like theatre, then I’m sure other people could also get the same thing out of it.

Is there something that makes all the work you put into the shows worthwhile?

Definitely my students. Seeing them grow and getting to spend time with them, and watch them succeed in ways that they didn’t even think was possible, then that’s what makes it all worth it, and makes me want to come back every morning.

What do you hope that students take away from theatre?

At the end of the day, it’s my goal to make them better people in the world. No matter if they go on to do theatre, or they never do theatre again in their lives, if they can just be a better person overall–and whether that means responsibility, or the way that they view the world, or the way they appreciate art, or the way they connect with their fellow human beings– then that’s a job well done for me.

Behind the stage: life of a “techie”

The show cannot go on without the presence of “techies”– the students who participate in the technical theatre crews (hair, makeup, costume, etc). The statements below were made by techies when asked why they participate in technical theatre and why it is important to them or the show.

“It’s like a second family. During the class, we learn a lot of the aspects and outside of class and after school we are like a second family and we build together. We just enjoy each other.” — Braxtyn Degler, junior, paint crew

“I think it’s important because…without tech, the actors would just be up there talking…I think tech is what really brings the show together and brings it to life. You can have amazing actors, but if you don’t have amazing tech it doesn’t bring the story to life. It’s like the backbone of the show.” — Erin Olivera, junior, hair crew

“I do tech because it’s really fun. [Everyone finds] something they like in tech because there’s an artistic side and electronic side. There’s everything that someone would be looking for. I do tech because of the artistic side.” — Maggie Brown, makeup crew

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