One of the primary goals of International High School's theater program is a commitment to teaching all facets of theatrical production. In addition to performance opportunities, a key component to the theater experience is learning what it takes to put on a show from inception to the opening night curtain. Beginning in 9th Grade, students in Back-à-Dos (the after-school performing arts program) and the IB and French Bac theater classes take on a variety of roles, from set construction and stage management to costume, lighting and sound design.
The apex of the four-year International theater program is the opportunity to direct a play. Although granted the freedom to choose their own play, the students are encouraged to take on material that not only resonates with them subject-wise, but challenges them artistically. After reviewing submitted proposals, the theater faculty choose up to six seniors as student directors, who are then responsible for managing every step of their production process, from auditions to final performance.
This year's roster of student directors presented six plays ranging from a lighthearted 1920s drawing room farce, to a complex portrait of loneliness and lost love by the great American playwright, Edward Albee.
Directed by Wesley Tam, Jack Matcha's "Aerobics" opened the evening with a play set in an aerobics studio in 1980s Los Angeles. In his director's note in the program, Wesley reflects on his first-ever directing experience: "As an Asian-American in the arts, I am grateful that I was given this leadership opportunity to serve as a role model for other Asian-Americans."
In Edward Albee's "Finding the Sun", student director Beatrice Brown expertly led a cast of eight characters enjoying what appears to be a pleasant but unremarkable day at the beach, until a complex subtext begins to emerge. Beatrice was attracted to this compelling, layered work as she was struck by Albee’s ability to transport the audience to his world through the text.
Set entirely in the back seat of a taxicab, Jay D. Hanagan's romantic comedy "Along For the Ride"tells the story of two complete strangers who agree to share a cab, but soon discover that their subconscious selves have come along for the ride as well. Gabriella chose this play because "it's light-hearted but realistic, and because no matter how many times I read it or saw my actors perform it, I never got tired of it."
The evening's lighthearted tone was nicely contrasted by director Gillian Berkowitz's choice of "On Sundays", Lynne Alvarez's surreal exploration of unreciprocated love. Gillian chose this play because she has always been enticed by people who are unable to fully communicate. "This one-act will be relevant forever, because raw emotions do not go out of date."
Director Sophie Cate's ambitious choice of Anton Chekhov's satirical one-act, "The Bear", came about by chance after perusing an anthology of plays by the great master of Russian Realism. Sophie chose this play because of its timeless theme: in portraying a world where men and women still spar for the upper hand, "it's wonderfully relatable, and serves as a microcosm for our own world."
Directed by Carly Ryan, the evening closed with David Ives' "The Mystery of Twicknam Vicarage", an hilarious sendup of an Agatha Christie murder mystery set in a drawing room in 1920s England. Immediately drawn to the hilarity and absurdity of Ives' work upon first reading it, Carly was justifiably pleased with the results. "I never quite imagined the ways in which my actors would illuminate the stage with their unique interpretations of this quirky melodrama."