Photo courtesy of Naysa Piper-Fisher

Students posing before the first preview performance.

          One hour. One hour until they would all arrive. One hour to prepare. One hour to practice. One hour before the production would start. 

          Students were running all over the auditorium, some backstage and some on the stage. Those on stage were practicing their lines and getting their mics ready, their bodies sweating from the heat of the overhead lights. Those backstage were running around setting up for costume changes, props for entry, and the set for set changes. 

          Those on the stage felt the familiar feeling of their stomachs churning, anxiety running through their veins.  This was their time to shine; they had put weeks, hours, sweat, and tears into this production. There was a sense of pride attached to this performance. 

          Anon(ymous), by Naomi Iizuka, was chosen to be the Westfield High School fall theatre production. The production stars Westfield students: Giselle Vajellos, 10, Dewa Alam, 12, Mackenzie Vance, 10, and Matthew Florian,11. The play documents the life of a young girl, Anon, and her journey to finding her mother after they were separated when fleeing their warring country. The production opened its doors on October 8.

          The fall production was announced, as well as how to sign up, at the theatre town hall in late August. The audition process was slightly different than those in the past. After the virtual show last year, the theatre department decided that instead of holding in-person auditions that the virtual auditions would be best. 

          “Surprisingly G-H[Westfield’s theatre teacher/director of the show]  kept it exactly the same as she did during the virtual school year,” Zoe Brennan, 10, stated, “We filled out a form with all our information and we did a monologue on flip grid instead of performing one in person, which is definitely different.”

          Rehearsals began two weeks after the town hall. The first rehearsal was dedicated to the table read of the production. The table read allowed for the cast and crew to envision the show with the actors reading as their characters. 

          The next rehearsals allowed for bonding between the actors, especially those who have to reflect personal relationships. The rehearsals moved on from bonding to the blocking of scenes. With this show in particular, the blocking includes some dance numbers, as well as some fight scenes. 

          “A lot of the blocking, at least cerographically, is heavily based on Greek theatre and Greek choruses,” remarked Teresa Seraphin, 11, “and how they all move together as a chorus. We try to do that a lot with the chorus of refugees.” 

          Production meetings with the crew of the production began that Friday. During these meetings, all those working on the show, from costumes to sound, get together in order to connect everyone’s ideas. For example, the costume and makeup teams work directly together to make sure that the makeup goes well with the costume, and vice versa. These production meets make this communication easier, making for fewer emails and miscommunication. 

          “Production meetings are the weekly meetings where the tech teams meet to make plans,” explained Nevaeh Hampton, 10. “Mostly for our Saturday build days where we get a lot of our work done.”

          Along with the production meetings, there were also build days. Build days allowed for the tech crews to have time to actually build and practice what they’ve been working on. So for the costume team, these build days were used to create costumes. For lights, these build days allowed them to work the light board. The only thing different about build days, is that the actors are usually required to come as well. 

          The actors come in to help with crews such as light and sound who have to make sure that everything is programmed correctly. 

          Some build days also involved rehearsals for the actors. Since everyone has to be there, it served as a perfect time to go over everything.

          When asked about what he does during build days, actor Matthew Florian, 11, replied, “Practicing lines, talking with other people. Screwing planks to planks, painting over dry paint. Always busy on build days, so I often find myself as an actor doing both tech and acting work.”

          Through the week of October 4, everyone was called to rehearsals from the end of the school day to 9 pm. The week was filled with dress rehearsals, costume parades, run throughs, and tech programming. 

Actors getting makeup put on for a dress rehearsal. (Photo courtesy of Naysa Piper-Fisher)

          On October 8 the theatre department gave a preview of the show to the school. They invited the language arts, foregien languages, and art departments. Those in the production had to be there from the beginning of third period until the end of the day. 

          Though this 2021 fall production looks vastly different from that of the 2020 fall play, Covid-19 is still limiting a lot of different aspects of the process. Masks had to be worn through the entire production, meaning that microphones will be attached to their masks, which could cause interference with what the actors are saying. 

          “We’re gonna have to put mics outside of the mask. I don’t really know how that’s going to work, though.” Brennan reflected. 

          There were some modifications to some of the scenes. For example, two main characters are supposed to kiss each other. With the masks the kissing scene becomes a problem. The director decided to change the kiss into a series of hugs, allowing the actors to continue the flow of the scene but without the dangers of spreading the virus. 

          Though there have been difficulties with particular aspects of the production. The Westfield Theatre Department has yet to bow down to a challenge. The determination of the cast and crew was shown through the efforts they put into the show and the ultimate success in pulling it off.

The full cast of Anon(ymous) on opening night. (Photo courtesy of Damien McDonald)