For every major production at East, a student is chosen for the position of director. The student director’s responsibilities include managing rehearsals, overseeing cast members, handling production fees and directing their own scenes among other tasks. The position is usually given to a senior, but this year, two juniors have stepped up as student directors. Read more about them and their work here.
When junior Becca Zeiger found out that she had secured the part of student director for East’s winter musical, Shrek, she was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to share the news with her friend, Austin Dalgleish, who later received the lead role in the show.Though she admits she can’t sing, Becca knew when she applied that she wanted to have a part in the production that would allow her to interact frequently with the cast.
“I was so happy [when I found out],” Becca said. “Before first hour one day, [Mr. Capello] was like, ‘By the way, congrats. You’re student director; I’ll make a formal announcement later.’”
Although she was excited to assume her duties as director, Becca did not anticipate the amount of work her newly acquired job would entail. The fact that there were 67 cast members did not make it any easier.
On top of making announcements and managing schedules, Becca was responsible for making sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.
“Basically, the musical has four different rehearsals, so on any given day, I’d be running to the dance room to check on the dancers then [I’d] run and check on scene work with Cappy, then vocals with Foley, and then pit might also be rehearsing,” Becca said. “My least favorite part was dealing with excuses of why people weren’t at rehearsal. One day I got 13 texts of people saying why they couldn’t [show up].”
In addition to managing the cast and crew, Becca had to oversee the distribution of T-shirts, handling production fees as well as the general moral condition and sense of unity of the cast as a whole.
But for Becca, the busiest part of preparing for the show was the week leading up to it: tech week.
“It was literally insane,” she said. “Tech week sucks because it’s super late nights but without the fun of having an audience. And I had the stomach flu, so one day I brought a bowl to rehearsal in case I couldn’t make it to the bathroom to throw up. It wasn’t very cute.”
Despite the chaos of tech week, Becca found herself enjoying the week of the show. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, she introduced the production to a live audience for the first time.
“Just having everyone in costume and watching the show was such a thrill, and also a huge anxiety attack all at once,” Becca said. “There’s nothing like seeing what you’ve imagined for months happen right before your eyes. Seeing it all pay off was such a surreal experience.”
But on whether or not she’d take on a position like this in the future, Becca is adamant that she will “never again” put herself through the whirlwind experience.
“It was insanely fun, but I definitely learned a lot and want someone else to experience the insane stress and joy of it all,” she said.
Junior Katie Sgroi felt nervous as she walked up to the call board outside of the Little Theater. Sgroi wanted to be the spring play student director from the time she heard East would be performing “Eurydice.” She knew she was qualified for the job.
Sgroi held theater technical leadership positions in the past and has taken theater courses at East since freshman year. She learned to direct at Shakespeare Heart of America summer camps. But she was excited for the possibility of taking on a greater role in her high school theater department.
She felt a mixture of relief and excitement when she saw the that she would be “Eurydice’s” student director. She couldn’t wait for rehearsals to begin under her direction.
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Sgroi first read the show’s script when her friend considered adapting it for a Frequent Friday, a small-stage production required for Advanced Repertory Theater students.
“Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl is a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus, played by junior Austin Dalgleish, from the perspective of Eurydice, his wife, played by senior Maddie Roberts. The story focuses on Eurydice’s choice to return to earth with Orpheus or to stay in Hades with her father.
“[Our show] has nine cast members so it’s really tiny,” Sgroi said. “I think the language of the play is really simple yet powerful.”
So far, the cast has been working on blocking, or planning the actors’ stage movements. Soon, they will begin full rehearsals of the show. Sgroi’s job is to take note of all of the blocking movements so she can remind actors of where they are supposed to be and when.
Roberts says she’s glad Sgroi is up to the task of student directing such a challenging show.
“Katie has a great way of making sure the cast is informed about what is going on with the show,” Roberts said. “She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.”
Sgroi lends her advice to director Brian Capello about other movements and how performers should say their lines. Once they start fully rehearsing she will help the cast develop their character roles.
She’s given advice to senior Mack Rehm, who plays the role of “interesting man/ a child,” to stretch his arm up like a snake and then snap during a moment in one scene. In addition, she’s worked with sophomore Catherine Beasley on her character of a “cackling old woman” who tries to seduce Orpheus.
“Eurydice” is a heavily technical show. Because of this, Sgroi hopes to make a connection with the crew. Sgroi says just in the few days they’ve conducted rehearsal, she’s been very impressed.
“I really want to make sure the cast feels comfortable asking me questions and that they respect my authority [as student director],” Sgroi said. “I want to help the show be the best it can be.”
Performances of “Eurydice” will be April 9 at 3 p.m. and April 10-12 at 7 p.m. in the Little Theater.