Freshman-sophomore play takes center stage

J-writers*, Staff writers

Enormous audiences, blinding lights, and remembering your lines. These elements can act as deterrents for many novice actors who may be more prone to stage fright or intimidated by the competitiveness of the theater environment at South, John Cowlin, English Teacher and Director of the Freshman-Sophomore Play, said. However, in this play, called Scene Werks, these factors are not present due to the low-pressure environment, Cowlin explained.

The goal of Scene Werks is to give new actors a safe, friendly, and fun space where they feel comfortable to express themselves, Cowlin said. Typical musical productions include large moving set pieces or props that can quickly make performing more stressful for the actors. To avoid this, Cowlin opts to omit an abundance of props or set pieces in Scene Werks. The low stress of it all allows students to experiment and decide if they enjoy the theater environment, Cowlin said.

“We don’t have anything super hardcore,” Cowlin said. “No giant sets, no giant budget, no giant props.” 

To get ready for the performance on Sept. 30, freshmen and sophomores participating in Scene Werks can find scenes from television or the internet to reenact or write their own scenes. They practice these scenes during rehearsal and perform them during the actual performance, Cowlin explained. 

Actors who are hesitant to perform on stage may be more encouraged to do so by working in a relaxed setting,  sophomore Lily Geimer, a first-time Scene Werks actor, said.

“What I really like about [Scene Werks] is you can choose how big or small you want your part to be,” Geimer said.“You can be in all the scenes, one of them, or you can be in a solo [scene]. It’s pretty much ‘Choose your own adventure’.”

Sophomore Lukas House participated in Scene Werks last year. The independence of the show is exciting, but there can be some difficulties, House explained. For him, writing a new scene was the hardest part of the process, and he appreciated that it was optional. 

“[Writing] is so difficult by yourself,” House explained. “You need someone to bounce ideas off of. The majority of the time [I spent] there [was] writing and hitting deadlines and getting everything finalized.”

Overall, he enjoyed participating in the production because to him, it was interesting, freeform, and more independent than other theater performances. 

“[Scene Werks is] very different from every other show here because everyone does their own thing and [collaborates],” House said. “It’s up to us, the entire way through.” 

Scene Werks performers rehearsed in the Lyceum daily, starting Sept. 6. The first days of rehearsal were spent brainstorming and looking for scenes students might want to act out or write, then they choose their favorites and practice until the performance day, Cowlin said. 

“[We ask] ‘What interests you guys?’ ‘What do you want to talk about?’” Cowlin explained. “‘What’s your obscure comedy skit that [you’re] always quoting lines from?’ It’s different every year.”

The actors and director found things that they enjoy as they go through the process,  including establishing ties and bonds with one another, Cowlin said. 

“The part I look most forward to are the students building relationships with each other,” Cowlin said.

Students participating find support from Cowlin, the other actors, and the audience that they perform to. For Cowlin, the supportive environment that is created is what the entire production is about.

“I like to see young people putting themselves out there and building relationships from it,” Cowlin said. “You go in [with] people who are strangers, you walk out [with] people who are companions in some way. There’s nothing else you’ve all experienced something together. You have a unique experience in your life.” 

*Stella Ivanov, Ellory Moran, Zoha Suteria, Maia Weissman