The Drama Department at West Hartford’s Conard High School is performing a series of absurdist plays outdoors in the courtyard.
By Ronni Newton
It’s a chaotic time, and while live theater has become a challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Conard High School’s Drama Department is undeterred.
“I have always believed that you can create theater anywhere, and I am so proud that the students have proven this to be true,” Drama Director Corinne Kravetz said.
The Conard students are currently performing “Utter Chaos,” and Kravetz said “absurdism” is the perfect genre for the current world situation.
“It’s a series of absurdist plays ranging from one of the classic originators of Theatre of the Absurd, Eugene Ionesco’s ‘The Bald Soprano’ (1950) to Edward Albee’s ‘The Sandbox’ (1959), to more contemporary playwrights like Durang and Ives,” Kravetz said.
“Theatre of the Absurd became a movement after WWII in Europe,” Kravetz said. “At the start of rehearsals, we talked about what it was like to live during times of war, the fears, the anxiety, and the uncertainty that folks had to deal with. The students were able to make an immediate emotional connection to our present times of chaos, so they were able to see why this genre was a good choice for us.”
“In the most absurdist of times, theater of the absurd just makes sense,” said junior Declan Smith, one of the actors. “This process was extremely unique in a sense to what Conard Drama is used to, but at the same time it still felt the same. Theater is a sense of community and creating a piece of art with a great group of people. This is exactly what we’ve done.”
Smith said he is grateful for the experience, and thankful to Kravetz for finding a way for the show to go on.
“Even though we have to require the guidelines outdoors with masks, we’ve still made a piece of weird and amazing theater that is a must-see,” Smith said.
Senior Lilly Gallinoto said it’s been tough not to be able to perform live over the past few months.
“Theater is incredibly important at these times. … Of course I’ve still been watching professional recordings, listening to cast albums, and even participating in online performances. However, it’s just not the same as a live performance. I have missed bonding with a cast, and the cast of our show is especially close as we are all experiencing the madness together.”
There have been challenges for the actors, Gallinoto said, ranging from weather conditions to learning how to show emotion in their faces while wearing masks.
“Participating in a show with so many constraints and differences from what a usual show at Conard looks like has turned us all into better actors. This is the weirdest show I’ve ever done, but it has been such a blast, and I am so incredibly thankful for those that put their heads together and allowed for us to pursue our passions again,” Gallinoto said.
Stephanie Reuning-Scherer, a senior, said it’s been a gift to be able to perform during this stressful time.
“It’s so important to keep theater alive in our town especially right now, and this play has been the perfect way to both get new freshman involved in the theater program, and to give us seniors a good senior play,” Reuning-Scherer said. “These shows are so hilarious, and the perfect mental break for both the performers and the audience.”
As stage manager, senior Nora Willson has had to deal with uniquely outdoor issues that are very different from performing in Conard’s Black Box space.
“Our outside performances have provided us with numerous challenges, including random gusts of wind and no dramatic light cues, but with the help of a sound system and a skilled small crew, we overcame those challenges,” Willson said. “It has been a pleasure working in the unique space and introducing new people to the theater program, despite the context of the time. I am proud of everything our cast and crew was able to accomplish.”
The first two performances were held Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and Kravetz said the audiences were thrilled to see live theater.
Remaining performances are at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, and will be held in the courtyard outside the cafeteria – where there is a natural raised stage. Tickets are $10 each, and are available online only at conarddrama.ludus.com.
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