Freedom High School
Nobody likes detention, and nobody likes deadlines. And when those things are combined with petty arguments or the overbearing weight of virtual life, things will get messy. This much was shown in Riverside High School's performance of Virtual School Problems, which explored diverse dynamics and animated characters with gusto and creativity.
The first skit of Riverside's show, "Detention," featured a mixed group of students from various social circles stuck in detention together. Commendable performances included Arman Jaiswal as Mr. Roberts and Arjun Dawar as Travis. Jaiswal brought energy and vigor to this skit, with ridiculous antics and total commitment to character highlighting the funniest moments. Dawar also brought energy to his performance, but instead as a snobby and stuck-up popular kid, Travis. Dawar's convincing portrayal of a conniving and privileged student kept everyone on their toes and kept the constant stream of high school drama rolling. And this skit wouldn't have been complete without innovating and creative technical elements. Creative use of cameras and editing techniques, managed by Keith Bocanegra, and Arman Jaiswal, kept the eye trained on the main focus of the scene, and thoroughly made up for the unavailability of a traditional stage.
The second skit of the show, called "End This Meet", demonstrated exactly what happens when the drama teacher doesn't show up for rehearsal, or so you would think. A few minutes into the bickering and posturing that comes from animated characters, the actors broke the fourth wall, surprising the audience that the skit was actually about a group of students writing a script about a botched rehearsal. Credit to this creative writing goes to Aenea Bayliss and Rachel Bunch, whose script showed imagination and true range of writing style. Notable performers included Caitlin Pancia as Alicia and Rachel Bunch as Brittany. Pancia played her two different characters with commitment and was able to switch between them flawlessly. Bunch also shone, portraying the picture of the ever-stressed leader of a group of students who would rather be doing anything else other than writing a skit.
The students of Riverside High School did a wonderful job of piecing together their ideas about virtual life in addition to the trials and tribulations of high school. With energetic performances and imaginative writing and directing styles, all those involved deserve to take a bow.
Flint Hill School
Riverside High School's production of Virtual School Problems featured two laugh-out-loud scenes that exemplified how the tedium of Zoom school has united communities over the past year. This student-written, produced, and edited play highlighted the talent, determination, and resourcefulness of cast and crew members alike, in a year like no other.
The first skit, "Detention", took place in detention, complete with friend-drama and an apathetic teacher monitoring the room, while the second, "End This Meet", perfectly captured the chaos of an online theater rehearsal with an MIA director. All characters possessed unique qualities that helped to distinguish their personalities, backstories, and attitudes. One standout actor was Arjun Dawar, who portrayed Travis in "Detention." Dawar brought great energy to the role, and, despite the obstacles of recording on a virtual platform, his reactions and tone made it clear with every line who was speaking. Another performance of note came from Rachel Bunch in "End This Meet," acting as Brittany, a member of the online rehearsal. Bunch's use of asides to the audience--where she would "pin" her screen to give the impression she was letting viewers into a private conversation-- was not only an entertaining and clever way of breaking the fourth wall and providing more insight into her character but also a great usage of technology.
Crew members also had a positive impact on the performance: elements such as the integration of props into the scenes and the versatility of the student-written scripts truly elevated the quality of the play. For example, in the second skit, Shawn (played by Christian Jennings) tossed a football in the air during the virtual rehearsal, not only representing the boredom of the Zoom call but also providing context for his character's popularity. The scriptwriting was another highlight: while "Detention" was written by the Theater Arts I first-year class and "End This Meet" by the Theater Arts IV class, a range of both comedic and empathetic/serious moments was implemented into the skits. Furthermore, the student writers (Beckett Rice, Andrienne Papalabrakopoulos, Arjun Dawar, and Grace Taylor for "Detention," and Aenea Bayliss and Rachel Bunch for "End This Meet") did a wonderful job at writing small parts to highlight each actor, and their character, in different ways. By employing dramatic moments of action, tension, and argument as well as light-hearted, realistic banter, the writing team made sure that an often-underappreciated technical component of theater made a huge impact in the presentation of the show.
With a dynamic cast of visually engaging, individual, and multi-talented actors, as well as students in the technical category who paid close attention to detail, Riverside High School's original performance went off without a hitch or a technical glitch! The theater department's achievements in producing a thoughtful, well-written, and all-too-relatable look at Zoom-school life was a wonderful example of the resilience of communities in the dramatic arts-- both on the virtual stage, and off.