This show may be watched at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH_fE1WL_Wc
Chantilly High School
Decisions: a constant, integral part of life, they often carry with them one great fear--what if we make the wrong choice? How can we know what's right or wrong? In an inspiring display of self-discovery, Riverside High School's original performance of Out of My Mind revealed that, once we focus on ourselves, everything else will fall into place.
Fully written and directed by Riverside's Theatre Arts 3 students, Out of My Mind centers on one young woman as htey make the choice to go to therapy. From breakups to familial resentment, they finally confronts and resolves the inner challenges that have been holding them back.
As a person going through immense self-reflection, Victoria (Olivia Miniuk) experienced great development throughout the show. With an impressive display of emotional range, Miniuk captured that whirlwind of change well--from the growth of volume when suppressed anger arose to the final breakdown when the realization of a messed up childhood hit, they revealed the inner turmoil that comes with the darker parts of life. Providing a grounding contrast of calm was Victoria's therapist, Benny (Rohan Jaiswal). Jaiswal consistently provided a feeling of comfort by attentively leaning forward, nodding, and taking notes, giving a feeling of constancy that is so important in a therapist and was a great foil to Miniuk's overflow of emotion. Together, they created a solid base to the show that was always nice to come back to.
Expanding on this base were widely diverse actors, bringing to each of their scenes a new energy and spice that truly brought the show to life. Victoria's mother (Danielle Webb) especially stood out. Always doing some background action, from painting to cooking, Webb conveyed the business and care of their character, while also giving the impression that they were too busy for Victoria. This simultaneously illustrated a more realistic home and provided foreshadowing for the neglect Victoria would later reveal, displaying true thought on Webb's part that brought the show to the next level. With both talented lead and supporting actors, each scene was entertaining and different, providing a very well-rounded show.
Especially as it was performed over zoom, the technical elements were essential to keep the show running smoothly. With a continuity team (Alex Footen and Natalia Fernandez-Davila Parades) the lighting and sound were consistent throughout the show--a feat very difficult to accomplish virtually, as all the actors recorded from their homes. All the actors were heard clearly and had good sound levels, and everybody was very well lit with exceptions for purposefully dark characters. This technical success is even more impressive considering that it was done completely by the actors themselves--they tied the show together very well, working from on their home stage and off.
From the search for the right chair to the search for the right life partner, Riverside's innovative and captivating performance of Out of My Mind gives us this simple, but ever true, reminder: the search for anything can be accomplished by first finding ourselves.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Therapy means something different to nearly everyone. For some, it conjures the image of a reclined couch and Sigmund Freud. Others may imagine an out-of-touch doctor who can diagnose their patient with any number of mental illnesses even before saying hello. However, Out of My Mind, performed by Riverside High School, revealed that therapy can be an energizing, compassionate experience.
Out of My Mind was written by Riverside students Aadi Sinha, Rohan Jaiswal, Hailee Blublaugh, and Zach Robinson. The show was a project for Riverside's Theatre Performing Arts III class, allowing them an opportunity to practice their acting skills in the medium of film. It follows Victoria Emerson (Olivia Miniuk), a young adult working in the film industry, as they face relationship problems and seek out therapy. Despite facing stigma for this decision, Victoria works with their therapist Benny to become happier and healthier.
Rohan Jaiswal as the eccentric Benny anchored the entire show with their acting skills. They blended humor with firmness, creating a wholly realistic portrayal of a therapist who was at once kind and personable while still maintaining the important boundaries that allow a therapist to properly treat their patient. Benny's character and boundaries were also a testament to the writing team's careful representation of therapy. Victoria developed a relationship with Benny over multiple sessions, seeing slow change with the associated work rather than an instantaneous fix--a misconception about therapy that many people hold. The writers also managed to produce a piece with impressive consistency and flow where characters all had their own distinctive dialogue patterns, even with four writers collaborating on such a short piece. Each plot point was also well-developed, with the conclusion of Victoria's attraction to Benny being continually foreshadowed.
The entire show was filmed virtually by Alexander Footen, with scenes directed by Rohan Jaiswall, Olivia Miniuk, and Gabi David all filmed in one take. This differentiated it from other virtual shows, as the single-take nature allowed for natural chemistry and flow between actors. Danielle Webb, playing Victoria's mother Amy, showed an amazing amount of movement in their scenes despite this virtual nature. They constantly had something to do with their hands, from cooking to cleaning, which kept the scenes lively. This movement also had the dual purpose of showing how Amy avoided conversation with Victoria, deepening their relationship and foreshadowing later reveals of childhood neglect. Webb's ability to do all this reinforced the show's themes and worked excellently with the writers' foreshadowing. Victoria's friend Hazel, played by Heather Stuart, also reinforced the themes of the show. Despite Stuart's character suggesting therapy to Victoria, they showed through dismissive smiles and quick responses how they also played into the stigma against therapy.
Lastly, the continuity department (Alexander Footen and Natalia Fernandez-Davila Parades) ensured that the show remained smooth throughout, normalizing audio levels and standardizing lighting. The lighting remained consistent for each actor throughout the show, which helped differentiate between characters and bring a sense of the stage to this virtual production.
As vaccines improve and mask mandates lift, the pandemic that forces virtual and distanced filming may soon be over. However, the touching and meaningful messages of Out of My Mind will certainly linger.