Eagle Theatre Soars to State Festival
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
Two Wendies, three Peters, one great performance. Lakes Community High School’s Eagle Theatre’s fall play told the story of Peter Pan, performing an original script written by playwright Jeremy Bloom. Peter/Wendy was one of 16 full length performances selected to perform at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival (IHSTF) hosted at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign beginning Thursday, Jan. 5 and lasting through the weekend.
At IHSTF, about 5,000 high school students from across Illinois fill the campus to endure a weekend full of performances and workshops.
Any high school in Illinois is eligible to be chosen and to attend IHSTF. Many are adjudicated by filling out an application where two other high school theatre directors attend a performance to provide feedback and discussion. Being part of the Illinois Theatre Association or a chapter of the Illinois Thespian Society also allows for recognition to be chosen. IHSTF is where these selected performances showcase their productions and talents.
“IHSTF is full of workshops, performances, presentations and other special events such as master classes. It’s the type of jam-packed event where you go from 8:00 a.m. until midnight,” Abra Chusid, director and Lakes Theatre teacher said.
Workshops led by high school and college theatre teachers, professional theatre directors and choreographers, comedians, improvisers and designers taught students lessons regarding how to audition, design a set and improve overall performance.
“Attending IHSTF was an amazing time, it was awesome getting to experience productions from many different schools and compare their interpretation of theatre to my own,” senior Jenna Tebben said. “Attending many productions also allowed me to support people I didn’t even know, simply through our shared love of theatre.”
This common passion and love for theatre allowed for an increased appreciation for other performances.
“It’s so wonderful performing for a theatre audience because these are everyone’s peers who are as passionate about theatre and work as hard for their shows as our students do. It’s an audience that truly celebrates you and cheers you on every step of the way, and is so excited to be there,” Chusid said.
The scenes of Peter/Wendy are set in a blanket fort where an older sister, one Wendy, tells the story of Peter Pan to her younger sister, the other Wendy. Throughout the play, the younger Wendy’s imagination springs to life as she takes over the older Wendy’s role as narrator.
“The purpose [of having multiple people play one character] was to create more opportunities for actors to portray roles together, allow more students to be casted and help to alleviate the sense of a ‘lead’ actor when each actor is equally essential,” Chusid said.
The play simultaneously told the story of Peter Pan as well as the story of a young girl inserting herself into the narrative and activating her own imagination.
“Being a main role in Peter/Wendy was such an incredible experience for me,” Tebben, who played one Wendy, said. “Playing Wendy was also a lot of work, I had to be on top of my lines and blocking in order to keep the show running smoothly. As Wendy, I was also pushed outside of my comfort zone, playing a more down to earth and intimate character, while having to remain in character for long periods of time. I also got to try lots of new things such as flying, performing on both a runway and a thrust stage and using shadows.”
As for the set, the stage was set up on the auditorium stage with audience seating surrounding the actors. This layout allowed for interaction between the actors and the crowd. In one scene, the actors who played the Lost Boys of Neverland, Wendies and Peters all chose audience members to dance with them on stage. This interaction brought smiles and laughter throughout the crowd.
The blanket fort also surrounding the set was used for shadow effects that allowed audience members to implement their own imaginations as to where the characters were and where the scenes unfold.
“Something I think that is really unique about our play is that it is such a different style of plays than most high school students are exposed to. The Christmas lights that we had strung up around the set transported the audience before we even started,” Chusid said.
Transporting the audience to their own world of imagination leaves the story to be told and interpreted differently by everyone, and the set of Peter/Wendy prompted imaginations to be activated.
“It is my goal to activate the imagination of the audience and ensemble members. So rather than sharing a particular message, I much prefer the audience to interpret it for themselves, to think of their own happy thoughts, blanket forts and flashlight chases,” Chusid said.
Regarding the goal of activating the audience’s imagination, the cast of Peter/Wendy was successful. Smiles, laughter and imagination were definitely brought to life.
Performing Peter/Wendy at IHSTF allowed for further imaginations to be activated as Eagles theatre presented their talents to fellow theatre peers. Chusid and Tebben explained the main difference between performing at Lakes and IHSTF was the audience and their appreciation for the art of theatre.
“Performing at Lakes we used a runway stage with the audience on two sides and performing at IHSTF we used a thrust stage with the audience on three sides. The crowd at IHSTF was much more attentive and had greater reactions to what was happening onstage then the crowd at Lakes, but performing for both was truly incredible,” Tebben said.
From sharing shows to learning lessons in workshops, IHSTF instilled a light of passion and appreciation for theatre. High school students across Illinois gathered to share this enthusiasm, reaching out to audience members in many ways.
“My favorite part of IHSTF was being able to talk with a sign language interpreter who was signing our performance of Peter/Wendy to a deaf student. When we were talking, she showed some of the cast the name signs that would be used for specific characters and it was so eye opening to know that someone would be experiencing our show in such a different way,” Tebben said.
IHSTF brought high school theatre students from all over Illinois to embark on a weekend of workshops, presentations and performances. However, the main take away of IHSTF was the ignited unity of the love for theatre.