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Behind the Scenes with Bishop Ireton’s Romeo and Juliet

By • Nov 10th, 2008 • Category: Cappies
Romeo and Juliet
Bishop Ireton High School
Alexandria, VA
Through November 15th

Rehearsal is about to begin, and the cast is scattered throughout the auditorium. Some are huddled together in the aisles, quickly running through their lines and laughing about their day. Some are pushing their way through the stage doors, Starbucks in hand. A few are hurriedly finishing homework.

Today, it is one week from the opening of Bishop Ireton High School’s production of Romeo and Juliet. The cast is anxious. This week, everything is supposed to gel. The show they have created will appear, piece by piece, in front of them.

Sixteen of the twenty-six cast members are seniors, many of whom flooded the drama department four years ago in an unusually large, enthusiastic freshman class.

In many ways, this is the end. For some seniors, it is the end of their stage careers. For others, it is the end of the days when theatre was only a game.

The “high school drama kids” stereotype is as old as any, but a resurgence in recent years of Broadway’s popularity has seen this brand become less of a stigma. With shows targeted to young audiences like Rent and Wicked achieving mainstream popularity, Broadway’s neon lights are attracting many aspiring actors. In spite of the setbacks and struggles that come hand-in-hand with acting, the stage has become home to high school students across the country. Many are determined to turn their passion for performing into careers.

For some seniors at Ireton, drama will soon graduate from an after-school activity to the focus of their studies.

Celine Daubresse has been performing since she was in kindergarten and is now a talented singer, dancer, and actress, president of the Drama Club, and Juliet in the fall play. Performance will remain a force in her life even after the play closes– she plans to major in musical theatre, and has two upcoming college auditions. She is nervous about them, but confident that she is pursuing the right career.

“I just don’t see myself doing anything else. I can’t see myself working in an office for the rest of my life. And you know, as much as people say ‘Oh, there’s no way you can make a living in theatre,’ this is what I’m passionate about. This is a part of who I am. This is what I know I want to do and I really believe I can.” Her cast mates agree; they all believe she has the drive and the talent to succeed.

James Robertson, who plays Romeo, echoes her sentiments. He is vice president of the Drama Club and a natural leader, unflappably friendly and serene. He plans to double major in drama and computer science (the latter as his “backup job for when I don’t have a job”). His experience with high school drama has prepared him well, he feels.

“I’ve gotten to do everything. I’ve directed, acted, done stage crew, done costuming. Sure, before, I liked acting, it was fun. But now… I’ve been taught so much; I’ve learned so much, I’ve been corrected at everything. I think the program has just made me so much more aware of who I am and what I want to do.”

James emphasizes the community that inevitably forms between so many students working so closely toward the same goal. “I mean, we’re all theatre kids, so we’re all insane, but we’re always there for each other. The atmosphere is astounding. I’m really going to miss that. I’m sure I’ll never see it again.”

He jokes, but there is an underlying truth to this. Acting may be a famously brutal profession, but in its amateur form, it forges incredible bonds. The opportunity to perform in many different shows with the same group of people is an aspect truly unique of high school drama.

Some seniors aren’t committing to a career in theatre yet. Carolyn Darville, playing Prince Escalus, is one of Ireton’s most talented singers; she earned a lead role in the musical her sophomore year. Bubbly and upbeat, Carolyn is captivating onstage, but she is still debating her college path, grappling between a minor in musical theatre and a music and arts management double major. No matter her choice, she is sure she will continue performing, in at least a community theatre capacity. “I need it to keep me sane,” she explains.

There are other seniors for whom this play is goodbye.

Sean Crook, playing Friar Lawrence, has been acting since his freshman year, and his enthusiasm is palpable. “This place is my home,” he declares, gesturing across the vast auditorium. He points to the cast, still waiting for rehearsal to begin. “These people are my family. I’m really going to miss my friends and the excitement of putting on shows. I’ll even miss staying here rehearsing until 11:00 at night.” Sean has a clear vision for his future. “I want to major in computer and information sciences,” he says, enthusiastic as ever.

Jake Gaudet, playing Benvolio, is the larger-than-life class clown. “Whenever there’s a part that calls for a funny accent, that’s gotta be mine,” he remarks. When asked what drew him to theatre, he pauses. “It was something I was interested in doing, and I stayed because of the friends I made. I may not plan on doing this forever, but I’m grateful for the charisma and presence I’ve developed because of it.” Jake plans to major in engineering.

Senior Andrew Ferguson is playing Mercutio. His acting chops never fail to impress, but like Sean and Jake, he is not planning to pursue acting. “I’ve thought about it. But there are so many different applications for acting in life, not just on the stage, that I’ve never really felt the desire to go that way.” Andrew is active in Ireton’s Model United Nations Club, and wants to study international relations and economics. He credits theatre with teaching him teamwork more than sports ever could, and summarizes the unifying sentiment about high school drama:

“You can say you’ll miss the stage, the professionalism, but when it comes down to it, it’s the people you’re gonna miss most. These are some of the best memories I have of high school.”

Regardless of whether or not they plan on pursuing it, the seniors can agree that theatre has been an unforgettable part of their high school experience. When asked what it’s given them, the unanimous first answer is friendship. After a few moments, the answers delve deeper. “Confidence,” a few mention. “My self-esteem.” “Creativity.” “An outlet for my frustration.” “I have discovered who I am by pretending to be someone else,” says another senior, Dan Boos.

For some, this show is a trophy; they have worked hard to take it beyond expectations, and they look forward to a successful run and final memories. For others, this show is training for a not-so-distant future.

For now, they are all working toward the same goal. The curtain will rise in a week, and two months of memorization, characterization, repetition and imagination will manifest in two acts of a famous play. Each cast member is ready. Each is waiting on a future.

Rehearsal begins.

by Emily O’Connell, Bishop Ireton High School 2009

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