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Winter Theater Showcases Original Student Production, Secrets

Kelly Slonaker

This winter, six Canterbury students took on the incredible labor of writing, directing, and performing an original production. Secrets is a form of “devised theater,” loosely defined as the process of a group collaborating to create and perform a new work without a pre-existing script. Eric Grode on the TDF Theatre Dictionary website states that a devised process “typically begins with little more than a rehearsal space and a group of eager, committed theatre practitioners. Through a series of improvisatory theatre games or other conceptual ice-breakers, they start to tease out the kinds of stories they’d like to tell and the way they’d like to tell them. Over time, a text emerges, one covered with the fingerprints of each and every participant.” 

The process for developing Secrets was much the same. Annaleise Booth ’23, Sabrina Capodicci ’20, Francesca Mangravite ’21, Grace Rundhaug ’23, Diana Turner ’20, and Chiara Vaccaro ’20 spent three months talking, playing, improvising, and crafting the show. They started every practice by sharing events of the day or stories from their lives to get to know one another better. Additionally, the group interviewed members of the School community in order to gain insight into the lives of other students on campus. Those conversations made their way into the theatre games and improv exercises, and ultimately into the show.

The play focused on a day in the life of six Canterbury students. We followed them as they moved through different locations on campus (all done through creative blocking and stage direction in the Chorale Room), and navigated conversations and interactions with each other. While each character was fictional, their stories were combinations of real things experienced by students at the School and by adolescents everywhere, including anxiety, stress, and unhealthy friendships. The play brought these experiences to light with authenticity, respect, and intention, and just as importantly, offered a forum to talk about them after the show. 

The six performers sat with the audience for a talk-back session to answer questions both as their characters and as themselves. The session helped shed light on the characters’ behaviors, actions, and feelings, and on the performers’ choices in portraying them. Sabrina ’20 shared some of that process: “It was incredibly fun to develop characters with unique experiences, names, appearances, and personalities. The most challenging part was deciding which issues to include. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented on stage, so we tried to include a wide range of topics for our audience to connect with.”

Ultimately, the play’s message was that everyone is going through something — even the people you don’t expect — and that looking at our relationships with others through that lens can make us more empathetic. Theater Director Sarah Armstrong shared, “It is our hope that by experiencing this performance, and engaging in the talk-back session after the show, each [audience member] will walk away with a new perspective and sense of empathy for others.” After the play, Grace ’23 noted, “This play helped me really understand that you have to look at the bigger picture and not just judge things based on how they seem to be. You should always look deeper into something to understand what is actually happening.”

The play’s program and talk-back session highlighted on- and off-campus resources for the issues discussed. We thank these six students for sharing their stories and talents with the community!