This article was written by Emily Cook, a senior in the journalism class at U-32 who is also a part of this production.
“I don’t see us having enough time to do everything that is needed,” said Cole Saunders, a Junior who is a part of tech, mostly helping out with set construction and working backstage.
This year Stage 32 is working on the first ever production of “Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On: Shakespeare’s Last Play.” This play is being directed by Maren Spillane, who is a guest director here at U32, the playwright of “Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On,” an actor herself, and founder of Dirt Road Theater in Northfield, VT.
“The play begins with Shakespeare, the hit playwright of the time, and he has run out of stories. We see inside his mind all of his most famous characters, and they’re performing the scenes Shakespeare has written for them, but when they realize that he is struggling to write another play, they come up with a plan to help solve his writer’s block and create his most famous and final play,“ said Maya Elliott the Stage Manager for Stage 32 and Stage 16 this year.
“Shakespeare’s Last Play” has been a completely different experience in comparison to previous years in the theater, especially for the seniors. ”So it’s dramatic, it’s straight from Shakespeare, and it was created with actor input,” said Jack Thompson, a Senior who is playing the roles of Hamlet, Bottom, Prospero, and Falstaff. “I really like what Maren’s doing. It feels weird to not have things directed by Erin, but I like working with Maren.”
Maren Spillane has written this play which is completely different from anything we have done in years. Not only were auditions held before there was a story or a script but she was going to have actor’s input to create the play. “She took what we said and synthesized it pretty directly,” said Jack. “It never felt like she was just taking control of it and doing what she wanted to with it.”
The first week of theater was getting to know the cast and adults as well as gathering ideas for the play itself, and then the following week was the more formal auditions where the actors had to memorize and perform a Shakespearean monologue and scene. The next Thursday they needed to be cast, so Maren only had one week and a half to write a script for this play. “There’s so many fun possibilities to bring certain characters from different plays together and see the ways that they can play off of each other. There’s so much humor there, and there’s also a lot of really great drama,” Maren said when she spoke about some of the challenges she faced when writing the script.
Auditioning for the play and not knowing what characters were going to be in it or what the play was going to be was an added challenge for the actors. “We didn’t have any idea of what the main character was like or what type of emotions that that character portrayed,” said Aliza Azarian, a Sophmore actor. Although the audition process was a different experience than what the actors have done in previous years, it was an important part of creating the play for the director. “The audition [and acting processes] kind of informed each other I think, to a certain extent, because I was thinking of certain people in certain roles, almost as I was writing the play as I was getting to know everyone,” Maren said.
The challenges don’t end at the auditions, the actors, tech, and costume-rs all have worries that last throughout the entire process of creating the play. One example is the language, Stage 32 is full of actors from grades 9-12, all with a different range of experience in theater. Some of the actors may have more experience than others, but that doesn’t mean that they will have an easier time learning it let alone memorizing it. Jack Thompson said, “Shakespeare can be hard enough to understand on its own, I worry that it will lose some of its meaning to the audience if we’re making such rapid transitions.”
Those working in costumes are worried about the amount of time they have to make and find the costumes that will work. “The only time I can meet with costumes is Wednesdays because of everything else that I’m doing,” said Sue Verchereau, the house manager, assistant to Erin Galligan-Baldwin, and costume director, which is a new job for Sue, having never been in this position in the theater before.
Elle Bizzozero, a Senior costume-r, had spent the first couple of weeks going through boxes of costumes for the costume sale and what they found was crazy. They found several boxes of costumes from sizes plus sized to petite and in many different styles. “I can tell these have not touched a human body in easily a decade,” Elle Bizzozero said. Even when they had all of these resurfaced costumes the limited number of costume-rs who weren’t also an actor still had to hand make several costumes.
The week of the performance Sue Verchareu got Covid and because of all of the built up stress and being overwhelmed with making sure all of the costumes were done and ready to go for the actors as well as making them, Elle quit, leaving Opal Carter a Sophomore and the only other costume-r who wasn’t going to be on stage during the performance, to be the only one working in costumes and helping actors with their quick changes backstage.
Some of the tech’s concerns are about the time given to get the set up as well. Cole Saunders said “It’s all about the time man. We are given eleven tech days to work on it. One of which just had to be canceled.” Even though they had less than the eleven days they expected, “the set needs to be up.”
But David believes that things will always work out in the end and that even if something does go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. He said, “You need to know that there’s a lot of difference between Spilt Milk and spilled blood and most of life is Spilt Milk.”