Behind the Curtain of the Theatre Program

Every student who passes through the theatre department will make an impact in some way. Theatre is an art form that encourages interpretation, meaning there is no one “right” way to perform.

Maria Bissell Hotchkiss, founder of our school, had a strong passion for the arts, especially theatre. Since the first all-male mainstage performance in 1908, the school’s theatre department has given students opportunities to participate in acting classes and Hotchkiss Dramatic Association (HDA) productions. Less than a decade ago, Hotchkiss created the Humanities Program, which allowed Preps and Lower Mids to take theatre. This change to the curriculum has made theatre more accessible to all students, increasing the participation in the art.

Although the theatre teachers and directors have not changed for the past several years, the course content is constantly evolving. Mr. Parker Reed, instructor in theatre and English, asks for student feedback at the end of every year to improve the course material and increase student enjoyment. Mr. Reed said, “I try to think about what [skills] theatre practitioners should have when they finish the course, but also what [skills] humans should have.” In Mr. Reed’s Humanities theatre classes, for example, students must prepare for and engage in mock auditions before a panel of faculty, staff, and spouses.

The use of technology in the theatre department has made a positive impact in the curriculum and quality of shows. Electives in lighting and sound design teach students how to utilize the equipment, ultimately training them to be technical directors for mainstage productions. Recording performances for students to analyze improves overall character study and engagement.

Approximately a decade ago, the school used to perform their shows at nearby schools to have a wider audience. This tradition is not continued anymore mainly because of the detailed nature of our sets and scheduling problems. Without this outreach, the theatre department felt it was missing something to make it different. The HDA Board discussed possible solutions to the problem, and ultimately settled on choosing an annual theme for all productions. All three mainstage productions each year now relate to a specific theme.  The theme for productions in the 2018-2019 school year has been “rebellion.”

The final mainstage production of the season will be a theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  The production will run April 26-28 in Walker Auditorium.

Correction: (March 7) The print version of this article as well as a previous version of this article online stated that the spring mainstage production would be an adaptation of 1984 by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall, Jr., and William A. Miles, Jr., the version being presented is not the aforementioned adaptation.