By: Gracie Guy ’19
Among the the many benefits to an Episcopal education lies the strong, artistic foundation created from actors, dancers, singers and musicians coming together to make something stronger than all of us: a theatrical performance full of love, charisma and unimaginable talent. This year’s fall production, The Wiz, not only holds the record for the most attended play in the history of Episcopal, but also helped over a tenth of the student body form long-lasting relationships, gain confidence in their performance skills and offer students a way to step outside their comfort zone before this whirlwind of a show even hit the stage.
From the minute we stepped into the Munnerlyn, the morale of the cast suddenly changed. We were not stressed out about homework; rather, we were overjoyed at the opportunity to spend time with old and new friends. We were not worried to make mistakes; we are simply preparing to try something new and think outside the box. We are not sitting in the lobby, waiting until the clock struck 5:30; we were getting dressed, eating Buck food, and rushing into the dance studio to see what song Anna Baumeister was going to use for warm ups this time. It was truly one of the most vivacious experiences I have ever been apart of. Even on days that seem to drag on a little longer or feel extra difficult, someone was always there to crack a joke, lead by example, or offer a way to solve the problem. And that’s not even because of what we were doing; it’s truly because we honestly wanted to build each other up and see everyone succeed.
I remember the first day of auditions in late August. I was so nervous, even though I had sang, danced and acted in front of people many times before. It was the vocal portion of the audition, probably the most intimidating aspect of the entire process. I still remember complaining to Libby Kellmanson, “I can’t BELIEVE we have to start the audition out by singing alone.” But as each girl went up one by one so sing, I realized the same pattern occurring over and over again. It didn’t matter if the person auditioning was the most confident performer in the room or singing a solo for the very first time; there was applause after every performance. Every single one. I knew right then and there that I was working with an extremely supportive group of people and that everyone in the room had just instantly bonded with one another. We were not afraid to be ourselves in front of one another, and we had only been together for two hours. I think that is why this play was so successful; yes, we bonded a little more every day, but even before we were assigned our parts, we obtained a special, unbreakable connection that even the best actors can’t pretend to have.
None of this would have been possible, however, if it weren’t for our amazing faculty and staff. Ms. Horne’s insane amount of patience, gentleness and creativity truly shaped not only our production, but the way we treated one another on and off the stage. Ms. Sturgeon stunned the audience with her always beautiful and lively choreography; some of my favorite moments from The Wiz were learning the dances with all my of friends, laughing, tripping over one another, running difficult parts in the wings before we went on and running the pieces over and over at our Saturday rehearsals, which, looking back, went by in the blink of an eye. Ms. Tuttle, our conductor of the pit and also our vocal director, spent countless hours diligently working to ensure we put our best foot forward when we stepped on stage. Mr. Hersey and his the band are incredibly talented and provided more to our show than we can ever comprehend; we would always dance to their instrumentals in the wings right before the beginning of Act 2. And, last but most certainly not least, we cannot forget the one and only Ms. Elsila and all of the hard work she and her technicians do for the theatre program- without her, I cannot even imagine what our sets would look like. Definitely not like something off of a Broadway show, which is what many people thought of our magnificent pieces in our play.
All of Episcopal’s shows have something to marvel at, but this show might have been the best one yet. People with no ties to Episcopal were hurrying to buy tickets. Students that had never performed before wanted desperately to be apart of this amazing experience. We were even able to include the multiple faculty members in a few of our scenes, which the students loved; after all, our teachers are pretty cool. And that ladies and gentlemen, is what Episcopal Arts is truly all about: coming together as one and forming something that we are all essential to. I will never forget this experience, and am blessed to know that this group has found their home.
Image courtesy of ESJ’s Flickr account.