Not just an act: Theater department stays connected on and off the stage

Senior Rachael Richman belts to the song Bend and Snap during a dress rehearsal for the Legally Blonde musical.
Senior Rachael Richman belts to the song “Bend and Snap” during a dress rehearsal for the Legally Blonde musical.
Mary Bahrami

The theater department heads of staff strive to expand the welcoming environment of theater by hosting more social events like a movie night, going off campus, mixing classes, and arranging workshops for incoming actors and tech students, or techies. The students and staff of the department want to keep student relationships healthy and inviting for everyone.

“Theater gives everyone a place where they can belong,” technical theater director Jeff Davis said. “Everyone can find their lane and find their niche within the theater program. I think the kids that are good at tech find the other kids that are good at tech, and the kids that are really awesome dancers find those kids and these bonds form.”

Pullquote Photo

Theater kids have always been labeled as the weird kids, but I think we wear that as a badge of honor.

— Celeste Schneider, head theater director

According to Davis, forced proximity between students for long after-school rehearsals often creates bonds that can’t form in another situation. Rehearsals have started for the musical, Legally Blonde, and Davis has already observed previously quiet and reserved students become more open and interactive.

“Theater kids have always been labeled as the weird kids,” head theater director Celeste Schneider said. “But I think we wear that as a badge of honor. We want to stand out, and we want to be different. I think that 100 years from now, that’s still going to be the stereotype, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because it’s served the art really well.”

Schneider has seen many student actors flourish in the safe environment provided by their fellow “theater kids.” Students in Legally Blonde have had many opportunities to put their dramatic personalities to use and practice acting skills with many different promotional events such as meet- and-greets with the cast, movie nights, and a hallway walk with Bruiser the dog.

“I always feel like the arts are underfunded,” Davis said. “For me, more money in the department means I have more opportunities to teach my students some really cool things. I also feel like the more money we have, that money can go towards field trips and bringing in professionals to come and do talkbacks or master classes with us.”

Davis expressed that more reliable funding for the department could mean potential field trips, off-campus outings for students, and better supplies for productions. Davis also said that students have reacted well to the department bringing in theater professionals for lessons, seminars, and “talkbacks,” which are open question sessions.

“It’s kind of sad that we’re used to the arts getting less funding,” Schneider said. “I think with increased funding, it would make our students feel more seen and more valued. We have a great booster club that works their booties off to raise money for the things we need, so we don’t really sacrifice quality. If the district can’t do it, we’re still going make theater happen.”

Schneider noted that the department tries to host more events for interested students, but often time restraints and budget concerns halt the plans. The cast and crew for Legally Blonde found time to host a watch party on Friday, Oct. 13, and continue trying to arrange other events to introduce people to the cast of the musical.

“Cliques happen in every school and every department,” Schneider said. “It’s a really natural thing to happen, but it can also be a really divisive thing. It’s a difficult thing to navigate because people are going to be drawn to the people they want to hang out with, but if that makes others feel alienated, that’s when it becomes a problem.”

Schneider, in her seventh year directing at Vandegrift, has seen many groups of students come and go, and every year, cliques form naturally between the outgoing actors and the more introverted tech students.

“I came in my first year, and I was pretty overwhelmed,” Schneider said. “When I walked into this sea of division, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to change the culture here.’ And so I did. I worked really hard that year.”

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About the Contributor
Mary Bahrami
Mary Bahrami, Staff Reporter
Mary Bahrami is a junior and is excited for her first year on staff. Mary is also an athlete on the Steiner Ranch Mountain Biking team and a member of yearbook staff. Outside of school, Mary loves to read, write, and spend time with friends.

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