Theater students prepare for upcoming student-led production

Brooklyn MacDonald, Staff Writer

As the spotlights shine and the cue changes, senior Sarah Weiner brings her new theater concepts to the stage. As the theater department begins  its eighth year, Weiner and other students have been given a new opportunity to direct themselves in a student-led production of “Antigone.” This production will be the first student-led play in Blue Valley history.

Students and drama teacher Dan Schmidt said they look forward to changing theater norms in the district.

Schmidt said his 26 years of teaching theater have helped him formulate new and ongoing ideas that are making his classes more stimulating and fun for the students. He said the idea of student-run productions have stuck with him since college and he has always wanted to produce one in his career.

“We had all undergraduates do the productions — direct, design, lights, set, costumes, props even,” Schmidt said. “I thought that’d be a great experience for the [students] to do. I just want them to learn by doing and when they make mistakes, that’s OK. It’s just a learning experience and I want the audience to have a good time.”

Schmidt said the adaptability of “Antigone” to exposition and blocking creates a “really good choice for a high school led production.”

Weiner was selected to be one of the five directors for this production, and is the main stage director. Because the play’s plot involves characters that are mostly young adults, Weiner said her concepts remain  similar to the original version, but differ due to the time era. The original version of the play takes place in ancient Greece, but Weiner’s concept moves the characters into modern times.

“I wanted to find a time period that mirrors the one we are in now, with a lot of political unrest and social issues that are happening,” Weiner said.

Set in Chicago in the late 1960s-early 1970s, Weiner said she plans on setting the play in this time era to help students and millennials to have a perspective of our time.

“In Chicago around 1969 to 1970, there was a radical political organization called The Weatherman,” Weiner said. “They were a type of program trying to fight against the Vietnam war, trying to stop it and to stop social injustices.”

With Antigone’s plot being so “adaptable to different kinds of settings,” according to Schmidt,

“I just want them to learn by doing and when they make mistakes, [and] that’s okay.” Schmidt says, “It’s just a learning experience and I want the audience to have a good time.”

With Weiner and Schmidt’s ideas put together for the task, both members of the production hope for the best outcome.

“I plan on putting everything I can into this, but unlike Schmidt, I do not have a degree,” Weiner said. “I am going to take my concept and work hard to make it look and sound successful.”

Weiner, alongside Schmidt, said she went through a casting process to find the best person to fill each character’s role. Antigone’s roughly 15 characters to cast, was a task Weiner says she feels comfortable doing with Schmidt’s advice. Other than casting roles, Schmidt finds himself being a facilitator more than anything, he says.

“I want the students to come up with their own ideas and do everything for themselves.” Schmidt admitted, “The only thing other than that, [is] I helped cast the roles.”

Schmidt said he wants the students directing to feel comfortable with their actors and actresses during rehearsals as Weiner attempts to perfect her concepts with the help of the other students. One of these students is costume designer junior Hannah St. Clair, who said she finds herself looking to visually display Weiner’s concept in the costumes she chooses and creates.

“I am most looking forward to making the decisions for how all of the costumes will come together — seeing how they will look under the lighting and how they display the characters feelings and emotions,” St. Clair said. “I just want to be able to show their [characteristics] through their costumes.”

From picking tops and shoes to selecting colors, St. Clair said she and others are working together to perfect Weiner’s concept.

With the show approaching, Schmidt said he hopes the audience keeps an open mind and realizes that everything set out in front of them originated from the students.

“Without these students, the show would not go on,” Schmidt said.