“If you hear loud screams coming from the woods this week, don't be alarmed!” wrote theater teacher Jeff Good in an email to faculty as he prepared for spring play rehearsals. The buzz on campus was immediate. Don’t be alarmed? What was this play? And why would anyone be screaming?
“Out of all my time at Cardigan, this play is definitely my favorite,” says Reaghan Moore ’22, a member of the tech crew.
In the Forests of the Night by Martin Dell begins when 13 students are compelled by their dreams to play a game in the woods which involves locating three signals that when found will keep a mysterious monster at bay. Not everyone, however, gets to play again. Only time will tell who will make it to the final curtain call.
COVID has presented challenging circumstances for Mr. Good and the Theater Program. But rather than letting those circumstances frustrate and limit the spring season, Mr. Good has used them to try something new and develop both his skills as well as those of his students.
During a workshop in which he participated this past winter, Mr. Good says he developed an interest in immersive narratives, a type of theater that differentiates itself from traditional theater by removing the stage and immersing the audience within the performance itself. In this play, for example, the audience has the opportunity to influence the directions in which the actors search for the signals. On the night of the performance, students will watch the performance in their dorms and during brief intermissions will have two minutes to solve a riddle. Once they solve the riddle, correct answers will earn them access to the locations of the signals which they can in turn share via email with the actors.
“All of the cast, particularly the three ninth graders, have done a great job with this new format. It’s also really great to see them bring alive the little scenes out in the woods when they are searching for the signals. So many of the layers of the story touch on our Core Values.”Jeff Good
The other thing that makes this play unique is that it takes place in the forest on the Point. “When I was figuring out what play to do this spring,” says Mr. Good, “I was hoping that students wouldn’t have to wear masks. It was a gamble staging the play outside where the weather could interrupt our production schedule, but I thought it was worth the risk.” So far the risk has paid off.
Due to the shortened spring term and the limitations placed on assembling a live audience, Mr. Good also decided to film the performance. For the tech crew, under the guidance of World Languages Department Chair Dan Perricone, that has meant a completely different set of skills. While accustomed to setting up and running the lights for performances on the stage in Humann, for example, this play instead relies primarily on natural light. Reaghan’s primary responsibility instead is managing the microphone as each scene is filmed and making sure that it isn’t picking up too much ambient noise.
For the actors, there have been new challenges as well. “I miss the sense of community and immersion I used to get from acting on stage with a live audience and with everyone else,” says Harold Kim ’21 who plays one of the 13 students in the production. “But I’ve learned more about how I should present myself to the camera, without directly acknowledging its existence. There’s also more room to experiment with my acting knowing that there can be multiple takes.”
“All of the cast, particularly the three ninth graders, have done a great job with this new format,” says Mr. Good. “It’s also really great to see them bring alive the little scenes out in the woods when they are searching for the signals. So many of the layers of the story touch on our Core Values.”
In just four short weeks (usually they have eight), Mr. Good and his crew of actors and stage hands have pulled together a unique experience for the Cardigan community. The show must go on, but that doesn’t mean it has to be business as usual.