In the culmination of a theater student’s high school career, he or she plans, casts and directs his or her own one act play, even writing it from scratch sometimes. The shows range from comedies as funny as a classic “Seinfeld” episode to haunting dramas that send chills down viewers’ spines. A lot of work goes into each snow, and below we detail each aspect.
Going to a Frequent Friday is something every student at East should experience. Doing research for this story, and realizing how much work goes into each and every one of these delightful shows, my appreciation for them has improved immensely. The fact that our school even has these, I think is often taken for granted by most of the student body.
I have been to three Frequent Fridays in my time at East. And yet, it seems like I’ve experienced the complete range these shows have to offer. There are bad ones, there are good ones, and there are great ones. Regardless of their quality I’ve enjoyed all three that I’ve been to, because even when the acting is wooden and the writing is cliched, I still have something to talk about after.
If you’ve never been to a Frequent Friday, go to one. And if you don’t enjoy it, go to the next one. Eventually you will be thoroughly impressed. I promise.
For seniors Nathan Goldman and Kaevan Tavakolinia, writing a play was second nature.
During his junior year, Tavakolinia began crafting a story about a loveless, dysfunctional family living in a trailer park. He based his concepts and characters on verses from the songs on the Neutral Milk Hotel album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”
Tavakolinia felt a strong personal tie to the album, something that went deeper than mere attraction to the guitar riffs and drum beats. Writing the story helped him distinguish his feelings.
“It was a way for me to appreciate the album more and in a different way,” Tavakolinia said. “To jump past loving it for it’s musicality and form, and to love it for inspiring something in me.”
The mother’s persona was from “Two Headed Boy, Pt. 2”, the father from “Oh Comely.” The main character, a teenage boy who, according to Goldman, is “literally two headed” and named Jeff, was also based off of “Two Headed Boy: Pt. 2.”
Jeff Mangum, the former lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, said in an interview that “Aeroplane” was based off of the Diary of Anne Frank, the famous account of a teenage girl on the run from the Nazis. Tavakolinia took this into great consideration and used a copy of the diary he purchased from Half-Priced Books and the album as guidelines for the story that he now wanted to bring to life.
In late June, Tavakolinia pitched the idea of using the concept for his Frequent Friday play to Goldman. The two agreed that Goldman would write the details, fill in the holes, and check the main plot points with Tavakolinia should he ever get lost. From there on out, the two worked together having heated discussions about the life and actions of each character on the page.
The brainstorming duo would meet whenever possible, in Tavakolinia’s room, in Goldman’s living room, in a corner at the Roasterie in Westport. They began piecing the lives of the characters together, and soon the characters began to tell stories of their own.
“It came to a point when the characters stopped being written by either of us, and started writing themselves,” Tavakolinia said.
The writing process was lengthly at the least. From its inception during Tavakolinia’s junior year to completion in mid-October, the play was a work in progress for over a year. Goldman worked on the story line over the summer starting in July, always confirming his ideas with Tavakolinia and finding inspiration in the Neutral Milk Hotel album.
Goldman spent his summer and the first half of his senior year working on the play. He had been accustomed to writing and had been weaving stories ever since he could hold a pencil. Though he had never written a play he Whenever he felt stuck he could double-check passages from the Diary or turn to “Aeroplane.”
“There was one point where I could not get the last scene to work, and I went for a walk up and down my street, listening to the album, trying to get the right pacing for the scene,” Goldman said. “Then I walked back inside, turned off my iPod, and finished the script.”
The pair’s work paid off when the final draft of the script was taken to the stage. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” debuted to a completely full Little Theater on Dec. 4. The cast and crew worked together to put on a memorably eerie show complete with live music and relatable characters. Goldman and Tavakolinia were both pleased with the end product and give credit to the superior cast and deep concept.
“Call it bragging, but I felt like we accomplished something very cool,” Tavakolinia said. “We had a great time, and we all, every one of us learned a lot.”
Senior Hannah Copeland sorts out the audition sheets from the last lot of auditioners. The ones that stood out, on the left. The ones not right for the part, on the right. The auditions for a Frequent Friday may seem like the beginning of it all. But, for the directors, like Copeland, it isn’t unlikely that the process started more than a year before the casting.
She knew that she would have to come up with a Frequent Friday for next year. Instead of using someone else’s work, Copeland always wanted to write her own.
“I really just didn’t want to have to read a bunch of plays, so I always knew that I wanted to write my own” Copeland said.
This year only four out of the seventeen shows are original works by students. But, writing their own script lets the director put more of themselves into the show.
The two characters in her story represent Copeland’s self proclaimed split personalities. Susie Moore represents Copeland’s optimistic side, always searching for more, and looking forward to what life has in store for her. While Jeremy Layte is Copeland’s pessimistic side. He is always late to class, because he just doesn’t care and doesn’t think that life’s going to get any better.
As Copeland’s auditions were happening, the preparation for Footloose was beginning.
“At first I was really angry about Footloose, because I thought that a lot of the people that might try out for my show wouldn’t be able to because they would be doing Footloose” Copeland said. Copeland was relieved by the 51-person turn-out.
After Copeland had chosen her cast of 13, she started her rehearsals.
Copeland would start the rehearsals with focus exercises, such as pass the clap where the group of 14 would pass a clap around a large circle. After that, Copeland usually tried to get through the script one and a half times before calling it a a day.
The inexperienced cast turned out to be a blessing. Copeland plans to go into some form of education, and enjoyed teaching her cast about basic acting concepts.
“I have a feeling that if it had been your ‘normal’ theater kids they would’ve just blown off [what I had to say]” Copeland said.
The consequence of having a large group for her play was that some people didn’t want to be at the rehearsals. “We had some trouble with one of the actors not wanting to got to the first few rehearsals, but after those first ones, he pretty much came to all the others” Copeland said.
After that the rehearsals went swimmingly all the way up to the show’s premiere on Jan. 22.
Copeland’s goal was for her audience to gain a better appreciation of poetry. Copeland said “I think that a lot of people think poetry is too ornate and flowery. I just wanted them to see that it isn’t like that. It can mean more.”
And for the future directors of Frequent Fridays, Copeland gives the advice to put as much effort into your show as you can.
“You have a huge opportunity to impact a bunch of people” Copeland said. “You don’t want to waste that.”
After changing out the CDs, sophomore Duri thought she might just get through her first Frequent Friday as a member of the crew without any snags. She was mistaken. She thought she had turned down the master volume. But alas, “Stand,” by Dee started to play through the speakers in the middle of the show. Duri realized what had happened and was quick to turn the volume down.
“I underestimated what I was doing I thought it was going to be more simple (trying to switch cds for music before)” Long said about the interruption during Senior Cara Rivers’ show “The Zoo Story.”“I felt pretty awful.” Rivers was in the tech room with Duri and told her not to worry about it.
“I underestimated what I was doing I thoguth it was going to be more simple trying to switch CDs.” said Long.
Long has been on crew for two shows so far. She has done sound for “The Zoo Story,” and lights for “The Allegory of Suzie Moore & Jeremy Layte” directed by Senior Hannah Copeland. Long enjoys the opportunity that Frequent Fridays provide, in how she is able to experiment with lights and sound on a smaller scale, to see if she would want to work with them for a main stage. She is able to do this without making a large time commitment.
“I would like to get more involved in tech, but so far I haven’t really had the time.” Long said
The crew usually starts their work the week before the show, and sometimes even the week of, depending on how much work needs to be done. Long attributes this to the fact that Frequent Fridays aren’t usually very “tech-heavy.” Regardless, Long said “you definitely [still] need to know what you are doing.”
According to Long, for most Frequent Fridays, the director will ask specific people to be on their crew, but that this is due more out of desperation than an attempt at exclusivity. “[If an someone with experience on crew] asks the director to help, they will usually be thankful, and give you a part in it” Long said.
When it comes to choosing between acting and crew, Long has a tough time deciding.
“I like both, but with crew you don’t really get that adrenaline rush, that you get from acting.” But then again, Long adds “The tech really makes the show.”
Senior Danny Thompson has finally claimed his moment in the spotlight.
After school on Jan. 19, Thompson entered room 213 to audition for senior and director Kylie Morrow’s Frequent Friday “Sweetheart.”
For his first-time lead role, Thompson portrays a soon-to-be-soldier by the name of Tom. His best friend June, played by senior Kelsey Summers, promises to send him letters while he’s away at war and soon realizes that she has let the love of her life get away from her. Thompson plays the role of the far-away heart throb well, a fact that Morrow noted from his first reading.
“Danny had the look I wanted for Tom,” Morrow said. “And by that I mean he looked very genuine and honest.”
Thompson had known about the show for months, planning to try out for a role since he’d worked with Morrow on “The Grapes of Wrath” this past November. After auditioning for Jack Hawkins‘ Frequent Friday in December and not getting cast, Thompson was more than ready for a defining role.
“This is my last opportunity to do something before I leave and I just want to get one more play in before the end of high school,” Thompson said.
Thompson performed a role in the fall play, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and he continues to work on other productions. Whether he has a minor part or a lead role, Thompson thoroughly enjoys being involved in different shows.
“I just like the atmosphere,” Thompson said. “It’s almost like you’re a family; near the show date you spend so much time together and you all have the same goal and it’s just fun. I love it. I love being on stage and just acting.”
Though the play has hit a few speed bumps due to Footloose rehearsals, the cast is ready as ever to focus on the piece. The show premieres this Friday in the Little Theater.