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Stage fright: how and why to act this winter


The Black Box Theater, built just last March, will be the scene of this year's 10-minute Winter Week Plays. (Credit: Catey Oakley)

As we enter the height of winter, many kids are taking a break from the hectic firestorm that was term one. Freshman have gotten a taste for what the high school is like. Sophomores finally feel at home and may be taking more advanced classes. Juniors are dealing with the first signs of their future with SAT’s and getting driver’s licenses. Seniors now have the responsibility of being the head honchos on campus and applying to colleges.

With all of this, it’s hard to remember that there are plays being put on for winter week at our school. It’s a tradition that many students have heard of, but not necessarily taken part in, a tradition that has lost support over time but hopefully one that will come back into full force this year with a new focus on shorter plays. Shorter, as in 10 minutes long. These 10-min shows are being introduced as a way to draw more kids into the fray.

The idea of Winter Week Plays extends far back into Wayland High School history. According to drama teacher Richard Weingartner, it began even before he started teaching at the school. They used to be a large event with many students from all four grades performing one-act plays, but this was over a decade ago.

This year, the idea is to put on shorter plays to cover a wider range of genres and allow for more students to be involved. The past few years have seen a lack of interest and participation from students. While some say this may have been because of the play lengths and the amount of commitment involved, I believe that other forces have held students back from the plays.

Perhaps it’s because of what I explained above, with students taking breaks from activities. However, I think that students are afraid to commit to the responsibility of taking part in the plays. This is totally understandable because I am relatively new to the drama program and know exactly what it is like to be hesitant about getting involved in it.

My first play was last spring, and I had my reservations about it. “I don’t want to go on-stage and make a fool of myself,” I remember saying. That’s stage fright, a phenomenon that keeps students from performing at Winter Week. Well, here’s some news: many of us “actors” still have frequent bouts of stage fright, even the most experienced seniors.

“It’s something that we all have to overcome –the basketball player right before the jump ball is thrown, the swimmer right before the buzzer goes. The only way it will become easier to deal with is if we keep overcoming it,” says senior Robyn Levy.

These new winter shows will offer a taste of what the full drama program is like. Weingartner plans to hold a couple of acting workshops for would-be thespians looking to try their hands at theater. He explains that these are akin to sports clinics or practices.

“I set high expectations and give kids the training to meet and even exceed those expectations,” he says. “I’m not going to do their work for them.”

Kids are the ones in charge here. If they have a show with 2 people, they will self-direct and plan their own practices. Therein lies the beauty of the 10-minute play. It allows for those with even the most rigid schedules to get together and rehearse a short, yet meaningful show.

Acting in these shows is a great way to learn something new and challenge yourself, yet still have fun. For many seniors, this will be their last chance to act in a show. For underclassmen, it’s the perfect time to get involved and take over the reins once the class of 2010 graduates.

It’s an experience that is unique in that it challenges us to use all parts of our brains at once and realize that what you do matters, even if you are just a kid in high school. More importantly, though, acting is showing the truth under imaginary circumstances. It’s revealing something about yourself to those watching. It’s simultaneous self-expression and self-discovery. All of that in 10 minutes and free of charge? You can sign me up.

The student-run auditions were held yesterday and will continue after school today. Talk to Mr. Weingartner, Robyn Levy or Danielle Barrett for specifics.