Most parents and teachers, as well as the high school students themselves would say adolescent drama doesn’t need rehearsals, a stage and certainly not more of an audience. Yet in small towns to large cities, from rural to urban, in gyms and cafeterias, theaters and auditoriums, high school drama flourishes everywhere.
The scripts are carefully reviewed and chosen, the directors hired, auditions filled to overflowing with sweaty hands, racing hearts, shaky voices, missed high notes and flubbed dance steps. There are plenty of false tears falling in addition to a few real ones.
What role goes best with which actor? Who has the best work ethic, the fewest tardies? Will the onstage lovers get over their disagreements offstage? The casting decisions aren’t just affecting a few weeks in a teenage life, but are crucial to the creation of a drama team that will live in memories life long.
The cast list is posted; tears flow again in joy and despair. Some are cut altogether; others are grateful to simply stand on stage as part of the background. The leads panic as they read the entire script and realize how many lines must be memorized in three weeks.
The rehearsals begin and the pruning of young actors starts:
"Do this, don’t do that, stand here, move there. Listen! Quiet! Louder! Pay attention! Turn this way! Smile when you say that line."
No coach ever controlled an athlete's every move and breath so completely as a drama director.
The weeks go by as awkward adolescents transform into gentlemen and ladies, royalty and ruffians, peasants and prostitutes, priests and policemen, each becoming something completely other than who they were when they woke that morning.
The backstage dressing room plywood walls conceal the gradual metamorphosis from teenager to dowager or glamour queen. Guys and girls stand side by side at wall length mirrors comparing brands of foundation, rouge and mascara.
The stage crew members move about purposefully, dressed all in black, phantoms moving silently amid the sets and props, creating new scenes in shadow darkness. The tech crew geeks expertly work the sound and light boards, always experimenting, choreographing each nuanced shadow or light beam, playing with sound effects.
Dress rehearsals reveal the gaps and the gaffes, as practice not possible in real life is crucial to success on stage.
Prior to each show opening, the cast and crew hold hands to pray together, singing “Blest Be The Tie”~ bonded together in common purpose before the stage drama begins.
The curtain rises, the actors go through each step, each line, each practiced note, as the audience responds. They emerge post-scene backstage smiling and high-fiving, energized by each round of applause, the laughter and shouts of appreciation. Even the occasional muffed line or missed cue is handled with increasing confidence and the ability to bluff when necessary.
The story unfolds, neatly contained within two hours, the curtain falls, the ovations begin, then out to a noisy lobby reception of bouquets and hugs, and then finally the make up and costumes come off.
The students emerge back into the real world, once again themselves, without glitz or glitter but perhaps a hint of residual eyeliner. Their homework and laundry are still waiting to be done. Real life resumes its forward motion somewhat less dramatically than before.
On stage under the lights, students discover the curious experience of temporarily becoming a character of scripted lines and finite existence. The lasting miracle is what the rapt audience witnesses: watching a child grow up, dramatically, overnight—all for the price of one ticket.
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