This show can be viewed at Herndon High School Theatre (herndondrama.org)
Lake Braddock Secondary School
The curtain rises. The audience waits with bated breath as the show finally starts. However, instead of thrilling pursuits of daring adventurers or the melodic prose of Shakespeare, the audience finds themselves face to face with regular Americans, just like them. In Herndon High School’s production of “We the People: A Human Family Play”, there were no daunting quests or terrible curses, but a reflection of the lives we, the people, live every day.
“We the People” originated in 1994 in a student-written production at Virginia Tech. One of the college students that conceived the project, Scott Pafumi, revamped the show in 2008 at Westfield HS, and then went on to restructure it again in 2020 at Herndon HS. Throughout all of these productions, although they may have different scripts, there has been a continued emphasis on the diversity of the American population. This concept is furthered through the structure of the play itself: through poems, skits, and monologues all centered on the hardships faced by marginalized groups in the United States.
Despite the hindrances of virtual theatre, the diverse cast of this production danced through their Zoom-recorded scenes with ease. Each ensemble member brought a fresh burst of energy straight from the comfort of their own home. Every one of them brought their own special circumstance to the stage: different heritages, beliefs, sexualities- a perfect representation of the United States today. When viewers watched this production, they saw an America they could relate to, no matter what their situation.
While every cast member displayed talent and amazing energy, there were some that went above and beyond to create an engaging atmosphere even with the barrier of a screen. Ava Deutschman captured viewers’ attention right off the bat with an exaggerated flick of her wrist. She showcased all the talents of a good performer with her impressively expressive intonation and vibrancy while performing her monologue. Yaliek Miranda expressed this same energy with his performance, especially his solo monologue, which was conveyed in rap form. Every rhyme was deeply personal and intensely meaningful. Viewers felt as if he was sitting down with them and talking to them like best friends. With Miranda, the relationship of audience and performer was broken down completely, replaced instead with an intimacy that felt more like a friendship.
Every member of the cast contributed to the excellence of the production. There was not a weak link in the entire group. Significantly, Andrew Landrum employed impressive physicality even within the confines of a computer screen. Juniors Lainey Bradley and Kelly Grover made an impressive pair when they performed their intertwined monologues. They emphasized the weight of the topic at hand- criminal justice reform- with maturity and skill.
Due to the complications of virtual production, many of the traditional aspects of technical work were absent from this production. This didn’t stop the members of “We the People” from putting on a production that not only exemplified the diversity of the United States in their stories, but in their surroundings as well. It seemed like every scene had a different background, from plain walls to blurred bedrooms to posters covering the space behind the performer. This theme of diversity was carried into the costuming as well, with no two players dressed the same. Everyone was unique in nearly every way, which perfectly encapsulated the purpose of the show itself.
Herndon High School’s performance of “We the People” explored hard truths of what it means to be an American in today’s society in a production that truly exemplified the diversity of the United States.
Lake Braddock Secondary School
Who are we? We are strong, we are brave, we are fighters. We come from all walks of life, across all races, sexes, genders, and religions. We are Americans. We are the People!
Herndon High School’s We the People: A Human Family Play, is a series of vignettes creating an introspective look at the experiences of the people of America. A compilation of original works created by director Scott Pafumi and his fellow theatre majors at Virginia Tech University in 1994, We the People tells a powerful tale about the hardships endured by the minorities of America. Directors Scott Pafumi and Cynthia Crisafulli adapted their play to reflect the different challenges plaguing America today, and redesigned the vignettes into a virtual show.
Herndon executed the change to a virtual setting to the show extremely well. They incorporated new approaches into the technical staging of the show, such as using a virtual green screen, using the actors’ homes as settings for the show, and using a plain white wall to add greater impact to the scene. For example, in the Preamble of the Constitution scene, Herndon filmed the three actors in the same location, incorporating items such as face masks into their costumes to reflect the modern struggles Covid-19 onto the founding fathers of this nation.
To shift to virtual theatre, Herndon primarily used pre-recorded videos or Zoom-recordings to maintain Covid-19 health and safety protocols. This worked flawlessly: all of the actors were in sync with each other, avoiding awkward delays between speaking. There were no audio or video issues.
We the People deals with heavy topics, such as the plight of an illegal immigrant coming to this nation, the struggles of the LGBTQ community, criminal justice reform, the difficulties of being a woman in America, and the experience of being a racial minority in America. The ensemble of actors dealt with these subjects with a lot of respect, and clearly felt the passion behind what they were saying. This feeling was amplified by the rich diversity of the Herndon theatre department, who brought power to their speech. One such example was Ava Deutschman when she read the poem If Men could Menstruate by Gloria Steinem. From the second Deutschman put on Steinem’s iconic glasses, she commanded the stage. She used her personality and stage presence to take control of the room during her monologue.
Another standout from the ensemble in We the People was Yaliek Miranda, who wrote and performed an original work entitled Not Gonna Change about his personal struggles with bullies, mental health, and homelessness. His words were moving and thought provoking, while also creating a rhythmic flow to his performance.
The ensemble behind the Herndon theatre department was what really made We the People impactful. Whether it was the funny, yet powerful discussion amongst LGBTQ youth at a high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance meeting, or the group of women discussing what they will never be able to do because of the oppression by the patriarchy in the vignette, “I’ll never be able to…”, Herndon’s ensemble was consistently strong throughout the course of We the People. The individuals who comprised the ensemble were the ones who brought the power behind the show.
We the People highlights who we are as a nation: we are unique and diverse; no one in the world will ever live the same life and go through the same experiences. We are ourselves, and yet, We are the People of the United States of America.