It’s astounding how much creativity can come from an empty room, especially when that empty room is Lovett’s blackbox theater. The design of a blackbox theatre, while true to its name, seemingly contradicts its function. Despite the bleakness of a room without color, this space allows for some of the greatest ingenuity in the theatre arts. I observed this on a Thursday afternoon, when I went to check out how things were going with Lovett’s fall musical.
Over the summer, every Lovett upper school student received an email from Lovett’s musical theatre director, Mrs. Pitchford. Of the hundreds of recipients of this email, a few dozen responded to it, several dozen probably deleted it, and the vast majority probably neglected to check their email altogether. But for those who took a good look at this email, they discovered a pretty amazing and unique opportunity.
It was through this email that Mrs. Pitchford announced that, in lieu of a fall musical, Lovett would be producing a “Fall Musical Showcase.” This consists of a collection of songs from musicals (in the form of solos, small groups, and ensembles) along with some monologues.
Interestingly, the arrangement of this showcase had not been completely hammered out at the time Mrs. Pitchford announced auditions last June. In fact, only the basic framework of the production had been decided at that time. As Mrs. Pitchford explained it in the email, “the composition of this show will be based on the participants.”
What exactly does that mean? Well, this showcase is very different from most Lovett productions in that students not only serve as the stars and tech crew but also as the scriptwriters.
“All of the monologues and lines are written by people in the show,” said sophomore performer Ciara Kilroy. These pieces were submitted by the students during a very unique audition process this summer. Participants had to send a video to Mrs. Pitchford of themselves singing along with a personal narrative they wrote about something in their life. Not only did this allow Mrs. Pitchford to get to know the different students, but it also allowed her to decide where she wanted to take this production.
“It became clear that what [the students] were thinking about was what their life is, which is the high school experience,” said Mrs. Pitchford, “...those writing samples they sent me began to fit into pieces and songs we had decided to do. It kind of organically grew into a story about high school.”
Now, with actual high school just barely in session and their upcoming performances on September 6th and 7th looming, everyone’s creativity needs to be in high gear.
“[We’ve] been learning music, rehearsing, and practicing,” reflected another performer, Joey Boveri, 10. “We’re on a very tight timeline for this.”
Stopping by their after-school rehearsal one day, I got a first-hand look into just how busy these last couple of weeks have been for the cast. Already I could hear some confident voices ringing out from the black box as the performers explored their roles in the production. Some students were in the center of the blackbox working with their coaches, while others practiced their lines off to the side. Others on the tech crew worked with stage managers to hammer out the mechanics of the show. At the center of the whole production was Mrs. Pitchford.
All these countless hours of hard work and dedication are leading up to only two shows. But for the cast and crew of Lovett’s showcase, their creative work behind the scenes in the blackbox and backstage is just as important, if not more valuable, than the performance itself.
“Being on stage,” said junior Will Novak, “just feels amazing because even when nobody’s there, you feel like the whole world is watching, so you have to perform.”
So let’s do our best to make sure that the whole Lovett world is watching the awesome production these guys are putting on. On September 6th and 7th, come out and watch these guys take their creativity out of the blackbox and onto the stage of the Hendricks-Chenault theater. Lovett’s incredible cast and crew deserve a packed house.