By Jono Vincent
Slowly but surely, Beaverton Theatre Department’s first production Get Smart is coming together. We see it on the stage opening night November 15th, but what happens before the curtains go up? What is going on behind the scenes?
As opening night approaches, the pace quickens in the Theatre Department, fueled by an anxious excitement. There isn’t a square foot in either of the department’s two stages that isn’t bustling with an actor going over their lines to themselves or crew replacing and repairing lighting fixtures. Focus has subdued the normally light-hearted atmosphere as the hearts of the department’s many cogs and gears beat as one. This is arguably one of the most productive halls in the school —rehearsals occupy every stage every day on multiple shows simultaneously, all working towards the same goal: to entertain.
While the common goal is very clear, theatre serves many different purposes for many very different people. For junior Natalie Harwood, the theater is a safe-zone from the academic stresses that school brings. “Theatre is definitely an outlet —If you’re stressed at school, you can come here and don’t have to worry about it because you’re invested in something else.”
While no one in the Theatre Department would disagree with Harwood’s statement, other students responded differently. Sophomore Kennedy Raphelt — who wishes to become a professional actress— sees the theater as an opportunity to “grow in both stature [and] in ways I can learn from other people.” Meanwhile, Senior Shanon Keehn says she has a hard time identifying with herself off-stage. “[When I joined Drama] I just kinda fit in and you can be as weird as you want and we will still accept you… It is this place where I can go and I can honestly be whoever I want.” Keehn explained that she tried filling her schedule with sports freshmen year to no avail socially. She then brought up an interesting point: “It’s like the theatre symbol with the masks — you can put on a mask and be your true self.”
What drives the theater towards opening night?
This concept of identity may seem counterintuitive, but actually highlights a peculiar
dichotomy: do we assume the identity of someone else behind a mask, or is it in this anonymity that we feel most comfortable being ourselves? This provides a plethora of debate stances which anyone who took Mr. Evans’ freshmen Lit and Comp is all too familiar with. According to junior JR Valentine, director Shannon Dery often claims “one of the weird things about being on stage is that the only place you can hide is inside of yourself .” These statements seem to show that it is often the dissonance between the identity of the actor and their character that pushes the show (as well as the art itself) forward as opening night approaches.
Supplementing this relatively obscure driving force is the productive duality between
unity and diversity. Junior Sophie Gourlay suggests that while creating the base of the show requires that every cast and crew member works on the same wavelength, it is the diversity that breaths life into the production by adding personality. “It needs to be diverse because if you get twenty copies of the same person, then the show is not going to have as much life as it has when everyone is an individual and brings their own stuff to the table. Contrary to that, everyone has to understand each other and each other’s strengths even if they’re different so that we can learn how to work as a cohesive group. It is not that everyone has to be the same —it’s that everyone has to be different but working towards the same goal.”
A new teacher — a new era of theatre
Whether the actors and actresses of the Beaverton High School Theatre Department are aware of these forces or not, the department seems to be progressing at an unparalleledrate. This might be because this is theater director Dery’s first year working full-time at Beaverton High. While this isn’t his first year directing shows at Beaverton, students like sophomore Dawson Fryer have noticed a difference with his newly consistent presence. “In Whitford [Dery’s last school], you’re watching a bunch of preteens and they’re kinda everywhere; so most of his energy had to go into making sure that they didn’t break or hurt anyone. Here, I think that he really gets to focus more on the theatre aspect.” When Dery was asked how he felt being here full-time, he also seemed to enjoy it. “I love it! I love it. This is such a blessing to be here. As much as I love [the middle-schoolers], high-schoolers are a different animal and I love the fact that you can explain things more in-depth and you can share that academic geekiness. You can geek out a little more with the high-schoolers than you can with the middle-schoolers and I revel in that.”
I asked Dery what his goal was as a theater director. He told me his main goal is “to teach, to give kids experience [and] to get them up on stage and to help them create those memories that will last a lifetime. The chance to make 700 people laugh is a rare and wonderful thing. Every kid should have that experience. That’s my deep goal. I kinda think of myself as a custodian of kids’ memories. I try to make them as positive and fun as I can.”
And that’s a wrap!
Cast and Crew for the departments 2014 production of Animal Crackers. Photos courtesy of Michael G. Ingram.