Productions Return: Outside the Box


Zach Scrima '22

(From left to right) Matteo Hottenrott ’25, Aurora Zhang ’24, and Stella Ren ’22 rehearsing for the October 13 Black Box performances.

As the falling rain came to a stop on the night of September 15, 2021, stage lights turned on at Main Circle, marking the return of Black Box performances. Three performances were featured in the showcase, with a cast of ten students and two faculty members, Ms. MK Lawson, instructor in theatre, and Mr. Samuel Somera, instructor in humanities & social science.

Plays performed in Black Box productions vary from humorous skits to experimental student directed productions. Chris Mitchell ’24, board member of the Hotchkiss Dramatic Association (HDA) and an actor in the recent performance, said,“Black Boxes are more of a discussion as opposed to just reciting a 5 hour monologue.”

In comparison to larger productions such as the musical and plays in Walker Auditorium, Black Boxes are typically more intimate and personal productions with lower stakes. Sometimes, casting and auditions are opened up to the entire student body, regardless of previous experience. Black Boxes give the cast the opportunity to become close with people from different classes and to bond in an environment that they all love. This year’s first performances included a surprise cameo from Bucky the Bearcat in “Telephone’s and Bad Weather”, a cautionary adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood in Deborah Zoe Laufer’s “Grandmother’s Revenge”, and a set of quirky detectives in “Detective Stories”. From the production to the performance of a Black Box production, students organize the auditions, create the set, design the costumes, and direct the performance. This gives students a chance to get a true taste of the work that goes on behind the scenes of theatrical productions. Mr. Parker Reed, instructor in English and theatre, said, “The students can go up to the HDA to find a play that they want to direct. Then they hold auditions that anyone can come and try out for. It is almost completely student-driven, but I will always be there to give advice along the way.”

In order to prepare for the performances while allowing all students to manage their busy schedules and operate under COVID-19 protocol, the cast and crew had to utilize more unusual rehearsal schedules. For instance, the TH481F Honors Performance course performed in the Black Box after only having six days to rehearse. Another performance included a cast that rehearsed throughout the summer.

After last year’s online performances on Zoom, which were quite literally even further “out of the box” than this year, many of the cast members, HDA members, faculty members, and directors were excited to perform in person.

This first 30 minute performance allowed the audience and wider school community to finally witness the art of theatre in person after over a year. Rachel Biccard ’25, who attended the Black Boxes for the first time, said, “The acting and content were very compelling, and I definitely want to go to any future performances. I know all the actors and people working behind the scenes put in a lot of work and effort, which definitely paid off in their performances.”

Black Boxes will continue to be held throughout the 2021-2022 school year. The next Black Box performance will be on Wednesday, October 13th.