Another winter, another theatre production (or two). As students and I were striking the set and packing up the costumes, sound equipment, light board, and props, the student who played both Dr. Horrible and Brenda the fairy ballerina said to me, “Problem solving skills, adaptability, abilities needed to function independently—I think I just went through all of those things in the past two months!” He was referring to the thesis statement he will soon be defending in order to graduate. The exact language each diploma candidate must defend is the following: “My experiences while at Fairhaven School have enabled me to develop the problem-solving skills, the adaptability, and the abilities needed to function independently and responsibly in the world that I am about to enter.”
I was interested in what he said, and talked with him for a bit about it. When the staff member who had been the primary adult involved in Fairhaven School’s beloved Theatre Corp resigned at the end of last year, staff and students alike wondered the same thing: what would happen this year?
None of us had as much experience with theatre production, so we had many things to figure out, adjustments to be made, and shoes to be filled. In other words, we had problems to solve, and students needed to adapt. Of course, adapting is par for the course here at Fairhaven. We see it happening all the time in our students when new situations and tasks arise. Back when I was a student (2004-2007), all of our productions were student-driven, so I had every bit of faith that our current batch of theatre people would rise to the challenge.
In addition to acting, this year students took on writing, directing, stage design, and lighting. Lighting was particularly challenging. In previous years the stage lights had been loaned to us, so the Theatre Corp first voted to buy six lights with savings we had saved from previous productions. Then, students helped me find which lights to buy, and one of our students assembled all the new lights. While technically I rigged the lights to the ceiling, the same student decided where they would go, what gels to put on them, how to position them, and what all the lighting cues would be.
One thing students found is that, not surprisingly, adaptability isn’t always easy. Originally the plays were scheduled to perform in December, but when not everything was coming together in time, the Theatre Corp made the tough decision to push the production into January and rallied the community to get the plays into shape. As we often say around here, failure is the best teacher. Theatre Corp’s temporary failure became an amazing opportunity, resulting in an entertaining weekend of shows followed by an IHOP full of lively students celebrating.
It wasn’t easy for them, and it challenged them in many new ways, but I am so proud of all these students as they blaze a new path in the next chapter of Fairhaven School’s Theatre Corp. They have already begun planning the next production, and we all look forward to celebrating their next achievement.