At 9:00 a.m. on an early November morning, Class 7 students found their seats in the Black Box Theater, eager to watch a play written and performed by a handful of their classmates. Before the actors appeared on stage, Drama teacher and Production Manager Luc Hotaling, the play’s director, offered an introduction: “We started to talk about fables and fairy tales. What if these stories happened today? What does ‘Happily Ever After’ mean?”
Guided by these and other thought-provoking questions, the cast members* collaborated to re-imagine traditional fairy tales. The students began crafting the original script at the beginning of the year and rehearsed after school for weeks. The result was “The Stories We’re Told,” an energetic production that, with emotion, humor and a decidedly feminist viewpoint, propelled these time-honored sagas into the 21st Century.
The stage illuminated, the actors took their places – one in a chair holding an open book and the others sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her. They began to recite this prologue:
The stories we’re told, the stories we’re told
From the time that we’re young, to the time that we’re old.
The stories we hear, the stories we hear,
The heroes we worship, the villains we fear.
Standing up and moving around the stage, the ensemble continued:
But why are these the heroes we worship,
and why are these the villains we fear?
And why is it that most of these fairy tales
end up being sort of unclear?
Who is the hero and what is his story,
and what makes our evilest villains want glory?
But now we must remember that our story beckons,
and maybe along the way we will learn a few lessons,
About the stories we tell, the stories we tell,
and what makes our angriest kings want to yell,
and the stories we know, the stories we know,
but now that is that, let’s get on with the show!
Over the next 45 minutes, the actors performed several memorable acts that featured compelling characters, excellent comic timing and universal themes of courage, independence and female empowerment. From the headstrong princess who stood up to her overprotective father to the opinionated (and cell-phone-addicted) daughter who was more interested in her friends than participating in plans for her royal wedding to the adventurous sister who bravely slayed a dragon, “The Stories We’re Told” entertained and enlightened.
If the laughter coming from the audience was any indication, this show succeeded, and the Class 7 students – through their powerful words and inspired acting – certainly gave the production their best.
The cast members shared how they felt about the overall experience:
“I loved the process of blocking the script because it was incredible to see my ideas to come alive! It was also fun to perform because we got to show the audience all our hard work. I also felt very proud of myself and my classmates who participated because we had worked very hard for a long time to create something all audiences could enjoy. Overall, the experience was great and I will definitely be participating in more plays.”
“My favorite part was definitely the writing. That was really fun and we played a bunch of theater games while we were writing, which were also fun. I felt relieved that it was over, and that we didn't completely fail, and also sad that we weren’t going to have play rehearsal anymore.”
“I chose to do the play because I was new at Chapin, so I thought it would be a good way to make friends. And it was! I loved the very first day when our drama teacher had us throwing around colorful bouncy balls for no reason whatsoever! I loved writing and blocking and editing. And I loved the night of the show and even the tongue-twisters we used as warm ups. Rehearsal was where I was happiest. We were all from such different groups, we all had diverse reasons for joining the play, yet from the very first day we just clicked.”
“I decided to do this play because I always love to perform and get to know people. After this experience, I now know so much more about my friends, and I am definitely signing up for the Upper School musical. I really hope my former cast members will!”
“My favorite part of the process was putting our play on its feet and blocking it. We got to experiment with different techniques and emotions for different scenes. I felt very sad when the play was over since we only got to perform twice when we worked so hard. However, I was also proud of my castmates who had also worked very hard on writing the play and bringing it together.”
“I decided to participate in the play because I thought it would be a fun experience. One of many favorite parts was the writing process. We broke up into two groups and wrote the play we wanted to write. We acted out some scenes to make sure it made sense. I was sad when the play was over because it was a really fun experience. I got to make new friends. We were all from different friend groups so it was nice to branch out.”
“Every single week was such an adventure, especially with such amazing people. It’s such a fun process and it was a total blast. I would wake up every morning that I had rehearsal and say to myself, ‘Everything today will be fine because I have play rehearsal.’”
*Manha Awais, Amelia Barnum, Natalya DeCherrie, Natalie Delk, Mathilda Hirschhorn, Maddy Machare and Isabel Marks
Prologue by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and Mathilda Hirschhorn (Class 7 student)
Browse photos from a play rehearsal below: