Virtual Student Directed Festival engages audiences over zoom

Bright eyes and wide grins from eager students brought levity and joy back into the Brookline High community on June 4. Despite devastating layoffs and national protests amidst a global pandemic, the high school’s Drama Society embodied the mantra, “the show must go on.”

Meeting virtually, students introduced the first performance of the night. They performed a short skit with enthusiastic attitudes that instantly captured the audience’s attention and acted as the perfect segue to into their peers’ performances. The first performance of the evening was “The Monkey’s Paw.”

Directed by Thomasin Schmults and Sophie O’Connell

“The Monkey’s Paw” opened with actors decked out in white lace frills, sharp black suits, stiff wool sweaters and layers upon layers of pearls. Delicate china tea cups and expressions such as “hark the wind” transported the viewers into an early-twentieth-century formal British living room.

The scene was set with Mr. White (junior Jack Reisman), Mrs. White (junior Niovi Rahme) and Herbert White (sophomore Camryn Lezama) waiting anxiously for Sergeant Major Morris (junior Stanley Peng) to come in from the storm. Upon arrival, through his convincing facial expressions and somber tone, he warned his hosts about his experience with a peculiar object that he came in contact with while deployed in India.

This seemingly ordinary monkey’s paw was creatively constructed with tin foil and actors brilliantly “passed” it from one screen to another.

The family was warned that the paw had a spell on it and gave three wishes, but were cautioned that the spell was put on the paw to prove the message that “fate dictates one’s life and those who interfere with it, do so to their own sorrow.” Ignoring the warning, an eager Mr. White ignorantly wished for 200 pounds.

Mr. and Mrs. White were told by a visitor (freshman Maya Shavit) that their son died and their compensation for his service was 200 pounds. The message ended the play with a dark twist and shifted the previously jocular mood to a lethal warning.

Written and directed by Brendan Chin and Gideon Lieberman

Scared and confused faces of people from all walks of life lit up scenes in the play “The Cure.”

Written and directed by seniors Gideon Lieberman and Brendan Chin, this satirical take on our world amidst a global health pandemic brilliantly targeted and criticized modern morals and values.

The show began with a doctor (junior James Kindall) announcing that he had found a cure to the virus. Unfortunately, resources were slim so he selected a group of infected people and tasked them with deciding which of them was most deserving of the cure.

Creative costumes consisting of everything from flamboyant scarves to fake glasses to pregnancy bellies, paired with hilarious accents convinced audiences they were actually watching this experiment unfold.

The group’s faces fell immediately when the doctor revealed that there would be different sets of rounds in which each round one person would be eliminated by a vote.

The cast suddenly rose up against the doctor, but cries that this was unjust or morally wrong were drowned out by greedy people who only wanted the cure for themselves.

Issues such as wealth inequality, age discrimination and race quickly came into play and left audiences thinking deeper about their own morals during such a trying time.

Eventually filling our screens was only a frail 32-year-old pregnant woman (sophomore Lilia Burtonpatel) begging for her daughter’s life, and a young white man (senior Noam Scully) promising to help her.

Together, both actors convincingly agreed that she would get the cure because she was accounting for two lives, but before she could secure it he ruthlessly voted her out to take the cure for himself.

Manipulating the system, a white man landed on top once again. This play brings light to previously hidden injustices happening in our world. The play, much like the pandemic has, highlighted the inequity and forced audiences to choose who to prioritize.

Thoughtful and powerful, this performance left everyone more aware of their own place in society, and not only the value placed on certain lives over others, but the ways individuals can manipulate these values to their advantage.

Directed by Eve Jones and Phoebe Kallaher

Powerful messages of misogyny and rebellion were woven into this adaptation of Susan Gladspell’s play “Trifles”.

The play opens and screens immediately burst to life with overalls, shawls and floral dresses. The actors on stage perfectly embody two twentieth century couples investigating the mysterious murder of their neighbor, John Wright.

Rude remarks, mockery and the men’s dismissal of their wives’ aid lead the women to begin an investigation of their own. While the men continue to belittle “their” women for worrying about trifle things such as food or quilts at such a time, Mrs. Peters (senior Renata Shen) and Mrs. Hale (senior Dee-nah Wattana) uncover the truth.

Discussion of Mr. Wright’s possibly abusive past first led to shocked expressions which eventually morphed into understanding gazes from the women as they began to discover what happened. After discovering a bird with a snapped neck laying next to an empty cage, the women realize that Mr. Wright murdered his wife’s bird. Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale ultimately come to the realization that, in an act of vengeance, Mrs. Wright killed her husband in the same way.

Defying their husbands, the women hide this truth from the men and by doing so, expose the injustices in the criminal justice system. Run by men with laws written by men, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale outsmarted their husbands without them even knowing it.

With outstanding performances by all actors, each individual performance captured the audience’s attention and left them with powerful messages to reflect on.

Directed by Karson McCullough and Yuen Ler Chow

“I wish to marry for love!” exclaims Elizabeth, played by junior Angela Lee. This play follows the story of two characters, Elizabeth, and Prince Alexander who have been told by their parents that they are to be married for the sake of an alliance. Not wanting to marry someone they don’t love, both run away, but are ultimately brought together by fate anyway.

The way the actors were able to adapt and use Zoom was impressive, and it helped to shape the setting of the story so audience members could get a sense of the places the characters were in. However, because Zoom is online there’s always a possibility of bad connection and slight confusion. As a result there were times when the characters talked over each other or started too early, and the transitions were a little sloppy, but overall, the actors adapted to using a new platform to the best of their ability.

Alexander’s (senior Freddy Sell) pretentious attitude and hilariously thick British accent shined through the screen, and paired with the impressive acting and facial expressions from Elizabeth made for an interesting, emotionally engaging story. Furthermore, the characters’ costumes and costume changes helped show audience members what was happening throughout the play, and provided more insight into who the characters were as people.

Supporting characters like Ollie (sophomore Bjorn Gardner-Olsson), and Trina (freshman Delilah Chapman Samsted), considered outcasts due to Ollie being transgender and Trina being gay, helped the play progress, and allowed for people who are like them to connect to the play.

Even though Alexander and Elizabeth were complete strangers to Ollie and Trina, they saw that the runaways needed help, and provided it without question. Eventually leading the couple to find one another, Ollie and Trina’s kindness went beyond what was required of them, yet had an outlasting positive impact.

Ollie didn’t know that Alexander was a prince and simply helped him because he understood what it felt like being an outcast. The same was true for Trina and Elizabeth. Because they had no one to help them when they became outcasts, they felt sympathy for the couple and wanted to make sure they had some type of support system.

“Arranged Runaway” shows us that we should be kind to everyone not because of who they are or what they can give in return, but because it is the right thing to do.

Directed by Sylvia O’Shea and Clay Baker-Lerner

The lighting of the cigarette, the pouring of the champagne, the elegant balck dress and the posh English accent. Sally Bowles’ mask was on.

This play follows the story of two characters, Christopher Isherwood (junior Owan Solane), and Sally Bowles (junior Din Klein), who are living together in Berlin, Germany during the years leading up to World War II.

Sally Bowles moved to Berlin to get away from her mother’s clutches, and because of this was able to meet Christopher Isherwood, her friend and roommate. He got to see the real Sally, the girl who was so carefree, and light. But she changed once Mrs. Watson (sophomore Grace Thompson) came to take her back to England.

Klein used the limited space she had on screen incredibly creatively, and made each scene much more lively, just like her character. The way she used her whole body to convey the personality of Sally Bowles, along with manipulating various props, including a fake cigarette, was very impressive.

Shows in this year’s Student Directed Festival were limited at a length of 10 minutes–less than half the length of a typical Student Directed production at the high school. As a result of fitting a full-length play into such a short amount of time, the plotline of this one was at times little unclear, due to many different things happening all at the same time. Examples of such include Clive Mortimer’s (sophomore Charles Long) spontaneous decision to travel on the Orient Express, or when Mrs. Watson comes to Berlin to bring her daughter Sally Bowles home.

Regardless, the acting in this play was overall remarkable. Zoom did not stop them from creating a beautiful setting and portraying complex characters. The impressive German and English accents the characters spoke in bought authenticity to the play, and they were all done extremely well. Mrs. Watson additionally brought comedic relief in this serious time period through her crazy makeup, and furry coat that matched with the posh, uptight woman she was.

Additionally, Christopher Isherwood and Sally Bowles had great chemistry on screen, and the two did an excellent job making it seem like they weren’t in two completely different places. It didn’t feel like they were talking directly to the audience, but instead to each other.

“I am a Camera” is a reminder to us on how some people can see the real you, and how others don’t bother trying to. Christopher understood who Sally was, and she with him.

Directed by Maya van Overbeeke-Costello and Emelia Gauch

Complete darkness everywhere. A single light shown on the doctor’s white scrub in center screen. A girl’s face covered with gauze bandages. All were most effective in eliciting an eerie effect that haunted the audience throughout the show.

“Eye of the Beholder,” an episode of the TV show “The Twilight Zone,” written by Rod Sterling follows the story of a girl named Janet who was born with a condition that has secluded her from having a normal life. She is considered to be the ugliest thing anyone has ever seen. The way this story was portrayed was not only amazingly creative, but surprising as well.

Unlike other shows in the festival, this one took on a more unique twist with using Zoom and camera angles. Instead of having multiple faces on one screen there was only one actor on the screen at a time. When the nurses, and doctor were in frame the audience never got to see past their chests, a cinematic decision used to extreme effect. The ambiance of this story was dark and creepy, an effect further aided by both the costumes and backgrounds.

Janet’s (sophomore Sammy Yee) face was covered in white bandages to create a mysterious and suspenseful look, and the nurses and doctor were surrounded by darkness. The mood is tense. When the doctor (sophomore Camryn Lezama) reveals Janet’s face it’s an utter shock to the audience. She doesn’t have an abnormal face, in fact, it’s quite human. It instantly makes the audience question why they thought she was the ugliest thing they had ever seen.

Then the screen transitions to what the doctor and nurses look like, and it is horrifying. They are the ones that look creepy, with the big pig noses and dark pointy black eyebrows. Janet’s face is not what our society would call “ugly,” because a face like Janet’s versus that of the nurses and doctor is what society thinks of as beautiful. In the unveiling of Janet’s face, Yee does a remarkable job with portraying the look of being surprised yet terrified at the people who have been taking care of her.

“Eye of the Beholder” teaches us that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. With her human face in a society of pig nosed people, Janet is an outcast, leading the audience to question our own beauty standards and their impact on society.

The Student Directed Festival offers a stage for talented actors to take on different characters, and is a place for these students to support one another and connect with an audience over their love for the arts. In times like these, it is extremely important to have human connections, and so having a platform to share with a community makes the hardships of using Zoom all worthwhile.

Watch the virtual Student Directed Festival here.