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The Student News Site of The American School in Japan

HANABI

The Student News Site of The American School in Japan

HANABI

The Student News Site of The American School in Japan

HANABI

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The ASIJ Theater’s All-Student Affair

Juniors+Sam+ONeill+%28left%29+and+Sopheen+Lee+%28right%29+rehearsing+in+the+Black+Box+Theater
Juniors Sam O’Neill (left) and Sopheen Lee (right) rehearsing in the Black Box Theater
Reading Time: 4 minutes

On a Thursday afternoon last month, senior Sophia Nielsen strode through the high school hallways searching for an open room where she could rehearse her One Act Play. In tow was Evi Chung, also a senior, who has a leading role in Sophia’s play.?

“I hadn’t ever done theater and I had always wanted to do theater,” Evi said. The One Acts were her way in.?

Since November, Sophia has been directing Tangled Secrets, one of three plays showing this week and the only one written by an ASIJ student—junior Arnab Karmokar. Although this is not her first time participating in the theater, it is her first time directing. Unlike ASIJ’s other stage performances, the fall play and the spring musical which are directed by ASIJ faculty, the One Acts give students a chance to take charge of the Black Box Theater.?

After finding most of the music rooms occupied, Sophia and Evi eventually set up in a classroom at the end of the second floor hallway. They cleared the center of the room of desks and made a row of chairs to create their “stage,” placing a singular director’s chair immediately opposite for Sophia. When junior Sam O’Neill arrived, rehearsal began.?

Sam is an actor in two of the plays and also a member of the stage crew. “Especially with One Acts, we have a limited team,” said senior William Michels, who is director of Off the Rack. As a result, many of those involved take on multiple roles or alternative roles. Senior Katelyn Gumagay, for example, who is typically a member of the sound crew for other ASIJ performances, is the stage manager for the One Acts.??

Senior Sophia Nielsen working with her actors on their play Tangled Secrets

The team that does participate, both on and behind the stage, is composed purely of students. Faculty sponsors Mr. Neale and Ms. Dolman say they are mostly there to get things started and to act as a safety net if the students run into any issues. “I’ve purposely not inserted myself into rehearsals,” Mr. Neale said.?

“Everything you see and hear was a student’s decision,” Katelyn said.?

The student-forward approach of the One Acts lends itself to a unique creative process. Whereas in the fall play or spring musical students might find approaching a teacher with a directorial idea intimidating, the One Acts don’t have that problem. Actors frequently interject with their ideas and opinions, even going as far as challenging a director if they don’t agree with a decision.

“That often isn’t possible when it’s directed by an adult,” Sophia said.?

 

At times, it can be difficult as a director to make a decision that a cast member is set against, but Sophia says the director-actor dialogue has been more productive than not. Getting input from her actors prevents her from falling into a creative bubble and has made her play more “well rounded.”?

The fact that the One Acts are student-led also creates an especially supportive environment. During the rehearsal of Check Please, directed by senior Anna Armstrong, cast members giggled and cheered as the scenes progressed. When one actor was struggling with his character’s suave tone, the other actors chimed in to help. “Be fake Prince Charming,” one said. “You should raise your eyebrows,” said another.?

It’s Anna’s job to guide her actors through the play, but she doesn’t feel like she has to bear the responsibility for the whole process. “As a director, I’m also being supported by my cast.”?

For Evi, this supportive environment made it easy for her to get adjusted to the theater. “At first it was really scary,” she admitted, but she soon got along with her more experienced peers. Sophia says she is proud how much Evi has grown into her role and improved as an actor over the past few months.?

One Act veterans know Evi’s story is not uncommon. The plays are much shorter, more experimental, and less competitive than the fall play or the spring musical. Almost every actor who auditions earns a part and every part is a significant, speaking role. The One Acts aren’t afraid to draw upon novice talent, nor are they afraid to let seasoned performers try something new.?

Even directors Sophia, William, and Anna can relate. Perhaps more than most. Sophia was new to school last year and joined the One Acts to ease herself into the ASIJ theater department. William is a lifelong actor who first became a One Act director because he wanted to experience theater “through a different lens.” Anna was nervous as a sophomore to become a director, but eager to create her own show.?

William describes the One Acts as having lower stakes, but as actors and crew alike will attest, it is exactly those stakes that make the Black Box such a welcoming, joyous, and rewarding place during the winter season.?

The One Act Plays first show in the Black Box Theater on Tuesday, February 6th, and continue on Thursday and Friday. are free for everyone.

 

 

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About the Contributor
Ren Topping, Editor-in-chief
Hi! My name is Ren. I'm currently a senior and have been at ASIJ since 2016. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, so I'm a native to big cities. I love reading, writing, playing soccer, running track, and watching movies. As a student journalist, I aim to amplify unique voices in the ASIJ community, especially those that aren't normally in the limelight.

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