By Eleanor Trese, Thereza Zephir, and Daniel Neville
OCT. 18, 2019
This coming November, the STA Players will be presenting their production of the play Animal Farm. The director, Ms. Elizabeth Garrard, is in her first year at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School (STA). Ms. Garrard exclaimed “I absolutely love the environment, and how enthusiastic and bright all my students are!” She decided that Animal Farm, by George Orwell, was a great choice, because this book is required reading for some of STA’s English classes. The play will provide an opportunity for these students to see this book come to life. By choosing Animal Farm as the fall play, she hopes to bring a splash of literature to her first production, which will be very exciting to see. Another reason Ms. Garrard chose Animal Farm was because “The script really gives the students a lot of opportunity for creativity. In both physical acting, doing things possibly with puppetry and, in general, lots of different creative outlets for students involved. So in this production it’s not just about the text, it’s about working together with the group to find new innovative ways to tell the story both onstage and off.”
The auditions for Animal Farm took a total of three days after school. Ms Garrard said, “the audition process was really fun; it gave the students an opportunity to read from the script, to bring in their own material, and I had them work in large ensembles where they created a barnyard experience. They got to moo, run around as horses, and act like chickens with everyone all at once. Not only did they get to explore the characters, they got to make new friends and do something out of the box they wouldn’t normally do.”
Once the cast was chosen, practices started on September 9. Rehearsals have been taking place every day after school for about two hours. Since there is such a large cast, approximately 60 students, it was decided that they would be divided into smaller groups based on the animals that the actors are portraying. Ms. Garrard also explained, “In the end we will bring it all together when we get closer to the actual performance to see how all the animals interact with each other within the context of the play.” Forty-five of the 60 students are cast members, while the other 15 are stage crew. The cast members and stage managers are separated during practices to develop the core of that experience, and to improve the productivity of the actors in each two-hour time period.
Junior Sara Fernandez is stage manager for Animal Farm. Her responsibilities include organizing all the information about the cast and the crew, as well as overseeing the stage crews as they prepare for the production. In the past, Sara worked as the assistant stage manager for the musical Sister Act. She says her favorite part of being a stage manager is interacting with everyone involved in the play, meeting people, and being a part of the family-like community. She also mentioned that the most challenging part of being a stage manager is the time commitment. As a student involved in the play you are required to practice for about three hours after school from Monday to Thursday, for weeks at a time.
Ms Garrard and some marketing students are working on creating a campaign to promote Animal Farm. The campaign will include a strong social media presence to reach a larger audience through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms. They are hoping that social media exposure will lead to people sharing information about the production with their friends and family. Something that Ms Garrard likes to do for plays is theatrical flash mobs. As Ms. Garrard told our reporters, “For example, maybe at lunch a bunch of horses will start galloping in promoting Animal Farm.” It would be a fun way for students involved with the play to publicize their production.
The whole pre-production of the play takes about twelve weeks. The rehearsals will continue until the play opens to the public. The play will be on stage at the Bienes Center from November 21-24. Animal Farm will be a fun, exciting, and creative play for the cast and crew. It is going to be a great experience to see how the play turns out after all the hard work Ms. Garrard and the STA Players put into making the production perfect. Be sure to check it out at the Bienes Center this coming November!