Setting the stage for new faces
An inside look at what goes on during the making of this year's play, Miracle on 34th Street.
November 19, 2018
From memorizing lines to managing different sections of tech to coordinating and directing rehearsals, it takes a miracle to get a play done. West High’s play this fall is George Seaton’s Miracle on 34th Street. Although West High puts on a fall show every year, this one will be unique through its new faces on both on the stage and off.
Emily Hill ’20 is the stage manager for Theatre West this year. Hill has been involved with theatre since she was young and has enjoyed working backstage at West for the last few years. As stage manager, she sits in during rehearsals to take blocking notes about where the actors stand, coordinate and instruct all the sections of tech that help make the show, as well as making sure that everything is getting done in a timely fashion.
“With stage management, I get to interact with people who are on all sides, like people backstage, people on stage, people doing music and stuff,” Hill said. “It’s really fun getting to meet new people.”
One interesting aspect of Miracle on 34th Street is the musicians. Rather than playing in the pit like a usual musical, the musicians will actually be playing on stage in the background.
“[Miracle on 34th Street] has lots of different elements,” Hill said. “There’s lots of stuff to do backstage, lots of props and things, and there’s also lots of parts for people and we can include musicians on the show, which I think is something we’ve been looking for.”
Another new feature to Theatre West this year is the tech director Christian Aanestad. Aanestad is an art teacher who joined Theatre West when the position opened up last year.
“I think the main difference is our new tech director Christian Aanestad. Having Christian here is really nice,” Hill said. “He makes everyone feel included and is doing a great job making sure everyone in the back is organized and all the set stuff is getting done.”
One addition to the cast of Theatre West this year is actor Zoe Nolte ‘22. She will be playing one of the lead roles this December as Susan Walker, a six-year old girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. Nolte has been dancing at her parents’ dance academy Nolte for as long as she can remember, but just started acting a couple years ago through a show that her mother was producing.
“When I was younger, my mom needed extra people because she produced shows,” Nolte said. “I just stood in the back with some little kids and I guess I just fell in love with [acting].”
Although Nolte has done community theatre several times in the past, this is her first time acting in a school production. According to Nolte, the atmosphere at West is very different than that of the community theatre.
“Everyone in the West shows are in classes together, so they’re already friends when they audition,” Nolte said. “You just become a big happy family by the end of it.”
The cast this year is especially changed. The 2018 graduating class held several of the lead actors from the past few years. With their graduation, many spots have opened up for new students to help out with this play.
“We do have quite a few new people, especially on cast,” Hill said. “The senior class we had last year was really big and they did lots of stuff, so we did quite a lot of recruiting at the beginning of the year, and we have a lot of new people this year.”
The director for this play is English teacher Katy Nahra. As the director, Nahra is in charge of the rehearsals and running scenes.
“We decide ahead of time what scenes we’re going to run then run the scenes however many times I feel like we need to,” Nahra said. “We also work on characterization and just solidify line and parts and blocking and all that good stuff.”
One unique aspect of the production is incorporating younger children into the scenes. For a few of the scenes, children of teachers at West are going to be up on stage when needed.
“So we actually invited a bunch of little kids of people that we know to be a part of just a few of the scenes, like the parade scene and the toy department scene, where it would make sense for kids to be waiting for Santa Claus and things like that,” Nahra said. “It’s a different kind of atmosphere. When you have the little kids, they dictate what we do and for low long.”
The fall play is primarily based on what the spring musical will be, so Nahra uses the musical to decide on which play they’re going to do.
“We pick [the musical and the play] together so that we’re sure that we’ve given chances to as many people as possible. If we do a smaller play, we wanted to make sure we do a bigger musical so that we can invite more people to be a part of it,” Nahra said. “This year, we’re doing something kind of dark like Sweeney Todd, so we wanted to do something much more lighthearted and family friendly to help compensate.”
Miracle on 34th Street will take place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Tickets can be purchased the week of the show in the main office and in the main commons during all lunches
“[I] hope that everybody comes and sees it,” Nahra said. “It’s great to get ready for the holidays, it really gets you in the holiday spirit.”