This article was written by journalism student, Jonah Edson
U-32’s theater created their fall show, Peter and the Starcatcher, in 2 months. This year, their schedule was a bit different to accommodate this. Every week, they had rehearsals from 3 pm-6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and until 4:30 on Wednesdays. Last year, they had rehearsal almost every day from 3 pm-4:30 pm.
The practice schedule compared to last year allowed larger chunks of time for the actors to work and also allowed students who played sports to participate in theater.
More late nights gave the students more days off. “We didn’t have to have Monday or Friday rehearsals. That was good,” said Willoughby Mikus, a freshman actor, though actors weren’t the only ones who liked the new schedule. “I think Fridays off especially is a really nice thing,” said Erin Galligan-Baldwin, Stage-32’s director.
Larger chunks of work allow the actors to get more focused work done. Una Leiberman, a sophomore actor, said, “We can work on a full scene and have time to finish it.” Nico Chan, a member of Stage-32’s tech crew, commented that the large chunks of time ensured everyone was ready for the show.
However, having a larger chunk of time meant that missing a whole day of rehearsal was missing 3 hours instead of an hour and a half, which was the length of last year’s rehearsals. “I could miss a rehearsal and it wouldn’t be the biggest deal,” said Una about last year’s schedule. The rehearsal time means students can miss a part for appointments and other commitments, but missing the whole rehearsal is more detrimental to them.
Evelyn Rocha, a junior actor who played Peter in the show, thought that one benefit was the consistency of the schedule. “There was no point where I was like, oh, shoot, I don’t have time to do this,” said Evelyn. She always knew when she had rehearsal and it allowed her to prepare for the later nights.
Even so, a lot of actors felt that going to 6 pm made it difficult to get anything done after rehearsal. “By the time you get back, you’re tired, and you can’t do much else at that point,” said Caleb Webster, a sophomore actor and member of the tech crew. He thinks that six felt like the end of the day and that meant he couldn’t get any homework or anything done.
Caleb prefers a few 8 pm over the 6 pm rehearsals. 8 pm rehearsals mean that there actually isn’t time to do anything after rehearsal. He said, “Going til eight [means] your day is over, there’s nothing you can do, and you don’t feel guilty.”
He also thinks that they get more done and would rather the rehearsals not be broken up into blocks between days. “Personally, I’d rather get somewhere and then focus on just going and cruising through it,” said Caleb.
The schedule put a lot of pressure on the actors because of less time for homework, but also because of exhaustion and pressure to memorize lines and music in their personal time. “I went to bed late a lot,” said Evelyn. “I also felt a lot of pressure to memorize my lines and listen to the songs outside of rehearsal.”
“It seemed like the actors were struggling,” said Jaden Singer, a member of tech who runs the sound booth. Evelyn thinks that balancing everything–the lines, the time, and homework–was “stress stacked upon stress.”
Some students have more homework than others, but the ones who had more felt they had less than ample time to do it. “It’s less nice in the sense that I don’t have any time at home, something that can be hard to finish all your homework,” said Jaden Singer, a senior member of tech crew.
Evelyn preferred last year’s rehearsals over the new 6 pm rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday. “It gave me a lot more time to do homework,” said Evelyn. Less late nights meant she had more afternoons to do homework.
Most actors wish that the schedule was extended over more months. Evelyn said, “I didn’t really like how we only had two months to do the show.” According to both Evelyn and Jaden, adding even just another month would have been beneficial. “I would want more time, maybe an extra month,” said Jaden.
Only having two months meant that the 6 pm rehearsals were essential in getting the show done. Last year, the crew had more months to get things done. Cole Saunders, Stage-32’s senior stage manager, said, “If we had the original schedule it would have been physically impossible.” Cole also agrees that having more overall time would have helped. He said, “It was difficult to do a show in two months compared to similar-sized productions where we had upwards of three and a half, four months in previous years.”
Actors suggested changes to the schedule that they think would make it feel better. “I think I’d rather not stay longer than five,” said Nico. He thinks just cutting one hour would work. “I would just have 4:30 every day and then some Saturdays too,” said Willoughby. Many of them suggest taking away time and adding it elsewhere. “I would take away one of the six o’clock rehearsals and make it a 4:30 rehearsal and then have more Mondays,” said Una. “Just not having two nights a week be six.”
Erin plans to explore some of these possibilities. ”I think that [we could do] a couple more Saturdays because we all know that Saturdays are great,” said Erin. She thinks she might do just one six o’clock a week, some kind of middle ground between the past schedule and the new one.
Erin might explore using callbacks in the future. She said, “Callback is a great time to encourage individuals to work.” In a previous play, a pair of actors came in during a callback and blocked an entire scene on their own, and according to Erin, other actors have used callbacks to work on their acts on their own as well.
However, callback isn’t a perfect solution. While Erin would love for students to “generate their own ideas”, she also thinks that callback might be hard to use. “Callback is really valuable time and I feel like a part of me doesn’t want to take time from callback for rehearsals, because that’s time students need to work on their academic classes,” said Erin.
Erin received a lot of feedback on the schedule, which was the goal. “I wanted to be super transparent. Try it and then get feedback,” said Erin. It matters to her how the schedule affects students. Erin sent a survey out to the actors that she plans to use to make decisions going forward. She said, “The majority of students said that this schedule ‘kind of’ worked for them, that they felt pros and cons.”
One reason Erin chose to lengthen a couple of the days was because a few years ago, the school day was lengthened to 2:50, but the late bus time wasn’t changed. “Those missed minutes, I thought, I can’t keep actors and tech late every single day, because that’s a hardship on families,” said Erin, “So I thought we could do that a couple days a week.”
Erin believes that theater rehearsals are also more effective with longer chunks of time. “You have to take roll and do warm-ups, so it’s really an hour and 15 minutes of rehearsal,” said Erin. Longer periods of time account for this lost time.
“I also wanted to get athletes involved,” said Erin. The schedule allowed athletes to come to rehearsal before their practice or after their practice because some sports start at 4:30 and some go from 3:00-4:30. “I can at least have athletes in for a window, which worked out with Cal, the Black Stache,” said Erin.
However, many students think that the schedule did not achieve this last effect. Most don’t know anyone who played sports during theater besides Cal Boyd. “I only knew one person who was in sports,” said Evelyn.
Willoughby thinks the schedule did not properly leave room for the athletes. She said, “I have friends who were gonna join, but they had games on almost every rehearsal that was late.”
Erin isn’t the only one involved in making scheduling decisions. “A lot of people think it’s just like, oh, I’ve made these decisions and they just go. No, no, no, that’s not at all the case,” said Erin. The process behind scheduling is complicated and long. She has to meet with all the VAPA teachers, and athletics, to ensure that nothing overlaps in the schedule, such as performances, big games, or events. “We kind of bargain with each other,” said Erin.
Erin’s schedule needs to be approved by the administration as well. Events, rehearsals, and schedule changes need to be entered into U-32’s tandem calendar. “Every time I have something I need to submit it to the schedule and then it gets approved or not,” said Erin.
Evelyn doesn’t think that she would have had time to do both theater and a sport if she was playing one. She said, “I wouldn’t have had time to commit to both of them equally. I would have had to choose one over the other still.”
Students also felt like the schedule made it harder for people not doing sports. “Erin’s focused on recruitment more, and I think that’s a good thing, but it also had an effect on the people who can dedicate their time fully to theater,” said Caleb. Many actors did not need the accommodations, and it affected them negatively. Caleb said, “I’ve heard a lot of people aren’t going to do theater again next year because of the stress that this built.”