Students have always known Theater III* as a course of ambition and excellence. Each year, ten to twelve of Haverford’s most skilled students develop a theater company and select a play to produce. Of course, this has been no ordinary year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the majority of clubs and organizations on hold or at least severely hampered their abilities. For the earlier part of this year, it appeared that Theater III* would be another of the virus’ casualties.
“I definitely didn’t [think we’d be able to produce a play],” Sixth Former Drew Loughnane said. “We weren’t going to have a show because we couldn’t have an audience, and we weren’t going to be able to have people on the stage at the same time without their masks.”
The group was allowed to perform if they followed the social distancing protocols, but they felt that the masks would damage the story. Theater III* teacher Mr. Darren Hengst did not want the students to wear masks that would serve no purpose in the play.
“I’m not really interested in doing a show where we just add masks for no reason,” Mr. Hengst said. “I want masks to be a part of the world in the play.”
However, the class struggled to find a play that included masks for a narrative purpose.
“We couldn’t really find a play that had a reason to wear masks. So that’s when we came up with the idea to write our own play.”Drew Loughnane ’21
Loughnane said, “We couldn’t really find a play that had a reason to wear masks. So that’s when we came up with the idea to write our own play.”
With a new process, the group turned what could have been a year of disappointment into one of fresh opportunities.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Mr. Hengst said. “To keep trying to find specific shows for just ten or twelve people that highlight everyone and their strengths is really difficult. We have a great group of senior leaders that really pushed to write this play.”
The class used the longer blocks to create new strategies during their production.
“We hash out plotlines and characters every day,” Mr. Hengst said. “If we get stuck on something, we actually just improv the scene. That process really has helped them come up with new ideas and keep things fresh.”
The students have exercised great teamwork to work towards their performance, which is approaching them in just a few weeks.
“It’s been a really collaborative process,” Sixth Former Trevor Pettibone said. “It’s not easy to write and produce an entire play, and our show date is in less than a month, so it’s good that we’re all working together. Obviously, some discord’s good, but there’s never been anyone who’s refused to play ball if the rest of the group thinks something is a good idea.”
As for the play itself, the final product will feel like a proper production and will be nothing short of spectacular.
“We’ve been working really hard,” Loughnane said. “We’ve been using music and lighting and other aspects of video and projection so we can get as close to a real play as possible.”
Since the school cannot gather for assemblies, the class has turned to virtual platforms for advertisement.
“We’ve made an Instagram account called Second String Production [@secondstringproduction] to promote our play. For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updates to garner some excitement.”Trevor Pettibone ’21
Pettibone said, “We’ve made an Instagram account called Second String Production [@secondstringproduction] to promote our play. For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updates to garner some excitement. We think that digital outreach at this time is a really effective and safe way to get our message across.”
The Theater III* class has overcome adversity all year and is eager to finally perform.
“We’re going to have two shows, on May 12th and 13th,” Mr. Hengst said. “The boys are going to perform it live in Centennial Hall, and we’re going to stream it to the community as well, so there’ll be a way for everybody to watch.”