“They call it drama for a reason,” said high school senior Dixon Graham, the president of Bishop England High School’s drama club.
Bishop England and other local schools are gearing up for some of the first productions of the school year. And one thing they want everyone to know: There’s more that goes on behind the scenes than you could ever imagine.
Bishop England drama teacher Cathy Slonecki said choosing a production is one of the first challenges. This year it’s “Miracle on 34th Street.”
“It’s agonizing. I try to find something the students and public will like,” she said.
Goose Creek High School and Berkeley Center for the Arts drama teachers Dorothy Smith and Taylor South work hand-in-hand. South is directing their production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
“I knew two students were doing this for their senior recitals and wanted to pick something challenging, interesting, historical and with cultural research,” South said.
She said realistically they have to choose a popular play that will bring in crowds because they have little funding. The money they make from admission sustains the program.
Charleston County School of the Arts also is feeling the brunt of dwindling funds. Drama teacher Megan Link is directing a dinner theater benefit the school hopes will be an annual event. She said they have never done a fundraiser and usually do not charge for their productions. “We’re coming to a place where we don’t have money,” Link said.
School of the Arts theater majors Timothy Shaw, Mattie Smith and Catri Heitman said this performance is different because they will interact with the audience.
“You have to have a strong character that you can improvise with,” Timothy said.
But the students are prepared because they are trained to handle these situations. Last week, they were directing their own short productions for a student showcase.
School of the Arts drama teacher Andrea Catangay said, “It’s amazing what they can come up with. They get surprised at how good they are.”
The students said their classes, not just theater, prepare them for being on stage.
“We learn how to have better human interactions, how to understand others, about memory recall and how to use experiences to act,” Catri said.
Bishop England senior and drama club vice president David Sanchez said it takes a lot of persistence and determination to be in a performance because of all the rehearsals.
“A lot of people don’t understand the time we put in,” said Goose Creek senior and drama club president Chase Priest.
Chase said they rehearse every day after school and sometimes 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays.
In addition to drama club, Bishop England’s Dixon is in the glee club and on the swim team. She said the drama club “takes the same amount of commitment and determination as a sports team.”
The acting is just a portion of putting on a production.
The vocal department at the School of the Arts is performing “Les Miserables” with a 175-member cast and orchestra, so they have to make sure they are on pitch as well.
The people who are not on stage put in just as much work as the technical staff.
Bishop England junior Rachel Dalton said techies have their own rehearsals and work on the floor placement, scenery and build the sets.
Senior Berkeley Center for the Arts student Lindsey Walker is a tech major at the school, located within Goose Creek High. She is teching for “The Diary of Anne Frank” for her senior project.
“Teching is all of the technical aspects of a theater performance. ... We make sure everything is in order so (actors) can do their job without interruptions,” she said.
Lindsey first reads the script of a production before planning the details. She does historical research to make sure the props and costumes are authentic.
The drama teachers also get by with a little help from their stage managers and officers.
“They have to take charge,” Rachel said about the drama club officers at Bishop England.
Goose Creek High School junior Aisha Addison is drama club secretary and the stage manager for the play.
“A lot of hard work and emotion is being put into it to make it real. ... We push our actors harder so they deliver it the way it was written,” she said.
Their countless hours of rehearsals will come down to a few performances on stage. Many of the schools have opening nights this week.
At the end of the day when the final curtain closes and the auditorium roars with applause, the students know that all of their hard work has paid off.
“We like how unique this art form is. Every night there is something different. Everyone has fallen in love with it,” Chase said.