Curtain Call: Preparation For A CB Theatre Production

Theatre is a always-present form of entertainment that shines promise for thespians. CB Theatre is one of our most notable form of performing art on campus, and each play and musical is sure to pique the interests of many.  The upcoming Spring play at CB is 12 Angry Jurors, a play adapted from the original […]

Theatre is a always-present form of entertainment that shines promise for thespians. CB Theatre is one of our most notable form of performing art on campus, and each play and musical is sure to pique the interests of many. 

The upcoming Spring play at CB is 12 Angry Jurors, a play adapted from the original film, 12 Angry Men. The story is about 12 jury members as they argue over a crime allegedly committed by an 18 year old boy against his abusive father. The 12 men argue over whether the boy is innocent or guilty of committing the crime. The evidence points that the boy committed the crime. However, when unraveling each piece of evidence, it becomes evident that there are inconsistencies. 

The film was based on a true story that was adapted to be a short film, showing the behind-the-scenes action on how the jury makes decisions in such a short and concise amount of time. This play is a popular theater choice for schools due to the diverse range of characters, from a jittery and nervous character to a thick accented rational thinker to the hothead that flies off the handle. These different personas can help actors easily flow into how characters think, feel, and act.

“Our current production, 12 Angry Jurors, is one of the most produced plays in high schools because of its educational value, its casting flexibility and for the fact that it’s just a terrific gripping drama,” says Mr. Michael Jackson, theater teacher and director of all plays and musicals run here at CB

But how does one audition or perform for such a role? What are the auditions like? For a first time actor or someone interested in the arts, these questions plague thoughts and scare future thespians from trying out for roles they’re too nervous for. However, with insights from the actors to the directors themselves, you can have a better understanding of what goes into a play such as 12 Angry Jurors. And maybe it will give you the strength and courage it takes to be in a play yourself. 

A play and a musical are in the works of productions for next year with auditions not yet decided. There is plenty of time over the summer to practice projection and acting in time for auditions, and many classes that delve deep in how body movement can affect how you convey a story.

 “At CB there are several ways to get involved with theater,” Mr. Jackson advises. “Auditions are open to everyone, so you can audition for the musical in the fall, the One Acts that runs early February, or the play that next year will run just before spring break.  Auditions are publicized in the bulletin and Schoology groups are set up in advance.” Next year the musical is Avenue Q: School Edition and the play is The Dining Room.  

Then there are the classes. Theatre Arts is a general introduction and overview of the theatre arts.  Acting Focus is just what it sounds like — a focus on acting. After completing two semesters of Acting Focus, you can join Honors Acting Focus if you’re really a serious theatre student. Some of the Honors students have no intention of pursuing theatre in college, but they just love the class, so it’s for anyone who wants an interactive physical and intellectual learning experience where you’re not stuck behind a desk.

“We also have a lot of opportunities for students to get involved with technical theatre behind the scenes, being on the stage crew, helping build sets on Saturdays — there’s a lot of opportunity,” Mr. Jackson adds. 

These opportunities are posted on Schoology for those interested in contributing. If you contribute, you get your name put in the paper directory for each production as a set designer or assistant. Jobs in building sets can range from drilling nails into plywood to stabilizing platforms to painting scenes out to give a breath of life into the plays. The tech crew and theater department both make costumes and rig up contraptions in order to make scenes look more cohesive to the story it is conveying. 

For example, in last year’s production of Seussical the Musical, big fluffy trees were made with fabric and styrofoam, and it was intended that they stand on the ground while the top leaned down to frame the scenes. To do this, thin wires and cords were put on the trees and ceiling in order to convey a visual effect. Additionally, mechanics and engineering are often used in the backdrops of the plays, small details that can bring everything to life for the audience, like scene changes, props, or making a working fan. All of these details can help spark intrigue to the story about what will happen next.

So what kind of people audition for such plays? How do they gather their courage, build their confidence, and embrace the arts? What advice do these actors have for new actors? With the help of talented actors from 12 Angry Jurors, we are able to have a better understanding of how to audition, get into character, and memorize scripts. 

Natasha Reese (‘25) plays Juror Nine, a calm, old woman who has some regrets in her life but still tries to push through to maintain the greater good. Natasha has been acting since the 3rd grade when her theater teacher saw her talent in the arts and further fueled her interests in musicals and plays. 

“I wasn’t going to pursue it in high school, but I thought I’d take a chance on the fall musical in my freshman year,” Natasha recalls. “I didn’t get in, but the environment in the auditioning process was so great it made me want to do it again until I got a role.”

Natasha’s determination paid off because she soon became an active participant in theater arts, memorizing multiple different scenes and scripts for the Lenaea Theater Arts Festival, where she flawlessly did the One Act, a partner scene, and a monologue throughout the festival. Natasha is a kind and supportive person in acting activities and plays, and her energetic personality brings people together and builds quick and steady bonds with her fellow actors and actresses. 

Kayden VonSchoech (‘24) plays Juror 8, a reasonable, intelligent, and inquisitive person with a love of social justice and a thirst for the truth.

Kayden has been in a total of eight productions, including 12 Angry Jurors, and has been taking theatre classes since middle school. Their love for theatre and musicals stems from performing on stages, which further amplified the older they got. 

“I did ballet as a little kid and our showcases were always musical themed and I was interested,” Kayden states. “Naturally, when I switched elementary schools for first grade and saw that they had a musical theatre program, I joined right away.”

Kayden always looks out for their fellow actors, giving pointers when something is off with the performance, and their perceptiveness on small details helps other actors fix mistakes they otherwise would never have noticed. Kayden’s attentiveness and humor never ceases to comfort others and conversations always seem to flow when they have something to bring to the stage. 

Madelyn Whitnell (‘24) plays Juror 3, a rude woman who sees a lot of her own son to the boy put on trial. In her anger, she fights with other jurors, disagreeing with valid points to blow the situation out of proportion. Her character is one of the main antagonists of the group. 

Madelyn has been in theater since she was 10 years old and has played various different roles, all of which helps her build a reputation in the acting community. Musicals and plays are Madelyn’s specialties, and her singing voice gives her the ability to play in various musicals. Madelyn’s dramatic flair on and off the stage will never cease to bring a smile to your face. 

“I got into acting after seeing a performance of Aladdin at a local theatre. I loved how the lady portrayed the genie. I wanted to be just like her and perform too! So I auditioned when YAS (Young Actors Stage) came to my school,” Madelyn says. “While I didn’t get the genie, I got a wonderful role as the villain Jafar. This began my career of playing villains. Since then I have played Gaston, Ursula, Cruella, Scar, Queen of Hearts, and more!”

All three of these talented thespians had to undergo the cold auditions in order to earn their parts. But what exactly is cold audition like?

Educational theatre auditions are typically cold readings from the script.  Everyone takes turns with a partner reading a one page scene, and they have several rounds where Mr. Jackson mixes people up and tries them on various characters.  A person’s ability to find a character, project on stage, and interpret a text becomes evident. Mr. Jackson then looks for a natural personality that fits each character.  

With musicals, students have to prepare a song to sing for the Music Director so they can gauge how they perform a song.  They then do a dance/movement audition to see how students pick up dance steps in a short amount of time before doing cold readings from the script.  With a musical, some characters have a skill set requirement, and either a student has the skill set or they don’t.  

Jury Members arguing around the meeting room’s table. Juror 8 played by Kayden, Juror 3 played by Madelyn, and Juror 4 played by Haylee Potter (’25).

“Some students are cast because I see their potential and have a hunch that I can coach them into the needs of the show, so the ability of our casts ranges from very experienced to no experience at all,” Mr. Jackson explains. 

Singing auditions are different from regular play auditions because instead of gathering in the theatre to cold read with new people, students are given the task of choosing a song that best displays their voice and abilities to control it. All singers are then allowed into the theatre one at a time with no other students and only those who will rank the performances and voices. 

Obtaining those roles can be thrilling and anxiety inducing, due to the amount of lines you are expected to memorize. But if memorizing is too big of a challenge just take it in little pieces.

 “My best method for memorizing scripts is a combination of the ‘Jackson 15’ where you look at your script for 15 minutes right before bed every night and just understand the story,” Natasha recommends. 

“The memorization methods that I like the best are recording my lines and listening to them over and over again and writing my lines down. I find that this way I can pick up more than I think I do so I can memorize much quicker,” Kayden suggests, “I also record my cue lines sometimes to simulate having a scene partner while I’m trying to learn.” 

“My best method for memorizing scripts is just practicing it in person. You can also have a friend or parent read opposite of you at home,” Madelyn advocates.  “Look up examples of the character — how do they walk? How do they talk? Where are they from? What have they been through? How do you think they should be portrayed? Do they have any special qualities?”

These techniques are all effective in the memorization and character molding for one to act and become the character, telling the story the character wants to but simply cannot. The New York Film Academy strongly recommends practicing before you sleep, acting with others, or recording yourself. The goal is to not only memorize your lines but say them with emotion and act them out with your strides or your arms. Only then will those lines become clearer to the audience you are conveying to, even if not directly. 

But what if the audience you are performing to is your obstacle? What if you find yourself in the pits of stage fright? How can you overcome the symptoms of fear and anxiety, the fear of making a mistake, or forgetting a line and potentially embarrassing yourself?

“To combat stage fright, it’s easier when you have someone or something of comfort that gives you confidence,” Natasha voices thoughtfully.  “I had someone my freshman year that made things easier.”

“Even after many years on the stage, I still get stage fright all the time. To combat this, I compartmentalize,” Kayden says firmly. “Before a show or an audition, I take the time to be by myself and listen to music to get in the zone. I get into the mindset that it’s not Kayden going out on that stage, it’s the character.

“It’s all about confidence: if you don’t have any, it’s crucial to fake it till you make it. The stage lights really help too because you can’t really see all the people staring at you.”

“To combat stage fright there is no real method,” Madelyn says. “For me it has always been there and there is no real way to get rid of it. To combat it I’d say have fun with it. Be happy with what you are doing!

“Make sure to enjoy the process, that way, psychologically, you think this is a positive experience and the fear will most likely be ignored. Try to also picture a place you are comfortable in then imagine that is where you are performing. Nobody is watching you — you are just in that place.”No matter what role you play, whether it be an actor, backstage crew member, or an audience member, there is no one too old, too young, to enjoy the experience of a show. So please silence your devices, dim the lights, and watch as the curtains open to 12 Angry Jurors

Buy tickets for 12 Angry Jurors at Ticket Hub. Performances from April 19-21 and April 26-28, 7 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 PM on Sundays on campus at the Thea Stidum Theater at the George Cunningham ’40 Performing Arts Center.

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