By Emily Magnus, Assistant Director of Communications
I open the doors to Stoddard and faint voices drift through the empty hallways. I pass silent classrooms, their lights off and doors shut. Down the stairs, lights filter upwards and the excitement in the students’ voices is now audible.
In the language classroom, the desks are pushed to the edges and students wander in and out. Some sit with their computers, trying in vain to focus long enough to complete an academic assignment. In one quiet alcove, a student uses the hour before the house lights extinguish to check in virtually with his family. In another classroom, students practice their lines. For tonight, this is backstage.
It’s the night of the fall play and I’m here to take photos. I enter the classrooms, one by one, interacting when students approach me, but mostly hanging out on the edges, trying not to interrupt their preparations and interactions. The play this year is “In a Grove: Four Japanese Ghost Stories” by Eric Coble, and the students are dressed in traditional Japanese outfits with woven grass hats. Math teacher Kyla Joslin was charged with making the costumes, and she has done an amazing job.
In the dressing room, Ms. Joslin focusses on makeup and handing out costumes, calling the students in one by one to transform their visages. Boys sit before her patiently as she makes one into a white witch and another into a hunchbacked spirit. In the doorway, there is a frenetic flow of boys.
“Ms. Joslin, where do I get dressed?”
“Ms. Joslin, should I wear my sweatpants under my costume?”
“Ms. Joslin, where’s my costume?”
“Ms. Joslin, do I need a hat?”
The questions keep coming and Ms. Joslin answers each boy, all the while putting the finishing touches on the wrinkles of one “old man” and tying the belt of another boy’s kimono. She leaves the room for a moment, boys trailing her into the costume room and maintaining their stream of questions. She returns with black ninja apparel for one student and a red robe for another.
“Gabe, come here,” she calls to a student passing in the hall. “You can’t touch your face; you’re smudging your makeup.” Unflustered, she tilts his head to the light and touches up his white face paint.
On stage, theater teacher Jeff Good is surrounded with students as well. Stage right, with the curtains casting dark shadows, he distributes props. In a voice that is barely above a whisper, he instructs one student on how he should hold his umbrella and another on how to open the doors to the temple. At one point, he checks his watch and realizes there are only 15 minutes until the play begins. For a moment, a look of panic crosses his face, but then he returns to his patient conversations with the boys, going over stage directions and handing out props.
I stand at center stage and raise my camera to my eye. I watch through my lens as the boys rehearse their lines around me, the white witch casting a spell, the begger walking into the temple. The temple doors open and catch on the pipe meant to send smoke onto the stage for one scene; the pipe collapses, but Mr. Good and the boys remain unflustered. Someone is sent to crawl below the stage to fix the pipe, and the rest of the boys continue to practice.
Of course, there is chaos; it’s opening night—opening night during a pandemic and opening night when there’s been no dress rehearsal. Students are still learning their lines and Ms. Joslin is in the corner sewing a student into his costume. But despite the chaos, there is a flow and sense of purpose. No one is panicking; everyone is just working together to solve every last detail before the play begins. And never have I seen such kind and gentle directors—teachers, who are finishing up undoubtedly the longest most difficult term in the history of the School. They have taken the phrase, “the show must go on,” to an entirely new level, saying yes to putting on a play, despite the pandemic.
The houselights dim, and the play begins. The play is narrated by Obosan, a traditional Japanese priest. He explains that where we now see a grove of trees, bushes, and grassy hills, was once the village of Kogisu—and Obosan was once the village priest. But the people are gone and their homes and shops and pathways have disappeared. Obosan promises to tell their story in four tales as he takes us back in time hundreds of years to watch the supernatural history—and ultimate destruction—of an entire village.
The Cast and Crew
- Obosan #1: Seongheon “Harold” Kim ’21
- Keizuke: Cayden Van Dolah ’21
- Jiro: Miles Kim ’21
- Yukionna: Gabe Raphael ’21
- Meiko: Junkai “Tiger” Yang ’22
- Kai: Mateo Escalante ’22
- Satoko: Beau Brissette ’21
- Ichi: Owen Tatro ’21
- Tetsuo: SeJun “Jacob” Park ’21
- Obosan #2: Brian Xi ’21
- Dombe: Estyn Elkouh ’22
- Shin: Brendan Agnew ’21
- Gen: Conley Bohan ’21
- Hyoroku: Teddy Stettinius ’21
- Azukitogi: Sam Pfefferle ’21
- Ninja Stagehands: Jack Roberts ’21, Zach Miles ’21, Joshua Kim ’21
- Musicians: Jun An ’23 and Terry Langetieg ’24
- Light Board Operator: Reaghan Moore ’22
- Director: Jeff Good
- Assistant Director/Sound Board Operator: Dan Perricone
- Set Construction: John Burritt, along with Jeongung “Edgar” Choi ’24, Eamonn Daniels ’22, Sungyun Kim ’23, YeChan “Leo” Kim ’24, Kai Kinoshita ’23, and Reaghan Moore ’22
- Costumes and Make-Up: Kyla Joslin