On May 14th, 15th, and 16th, Warde’s Drama Club put on a production of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Mr. Frattaroli, Warde English teacher, directed the show and Warde band teacher Mr. Marsland conducted the pit orchestra.
It is “an exploration of the intersection between art and life and the real and the imagination,” Frattaroli said.
With the two acts of the musical predominantly taking place in two different time periods, actors had the opportunity to play a variety of characters when working to bring this “intersection” to life for live audiences. Characters in the first act were inspired by Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Many of the students involved in the show portrayed the people he painted. One was senior Natalie Steele, who acted as “Dot.”
“The growing of the mind, heart, and soul through the eyes of an artist” is the best way to describe the musical, according to Steele.
She was nervous to begin rehearsing for the show; it was the first in over a year for Steele as it was for many other students participating. As the story behind the musical itself is an evolution of artistry, so was the process of putting it together. Given the circumstances of this year, successfully coordinating Sunday in the Park with George was a complicated task.
“The most difficult aspect of putting the show together was at first, the quarantine status of the cast,” said sophomore Keira Randolph.
When a member of the cast was quarantined due to contact tracing, they were not able to attend rehearsals in-person. Google Meet was used to observe from home, as students have become accustomed to this past year. However, video calls are not as adaptable to theatre as they have become to schooling. It was a great relief to the cast when COVID-19 cases at Warde decreased as opening night approached.
“The amount of effort that every cast member put into this show completely surpassed my expectations,” Randolph added. “I’m very happy that we got to be together and put on a great show.”
The spring musical was also affected by the pandemic in terms of its location. In a normal year, it is held in the auditorium. This semester the production took place in Warde’s main courtyard. According to Steele, this was the most challenging part of the show when considering the music.
“The acoustics aren’t great,” she said, “and we had to learn to count on one another to stay in time with the music.”
Senior Meg Andrade gives a lot of credit to the pit orchestra in regards to maintaining the music within the outdoor space. Andrade had a solo within the show as her character the “Old Lady,” and remembering the last few rehearsals she said her song “didn’t click until opening night… the immense talent that we have in the pit really helped!”
Frattaroli also thought that performing in the courtyard was difficult because it meant moving the set, props, and music stands outside each day. Despite this, Steele believed that the new environment pushed the cast to further trust one another and created a closer bond. Perhaps putting the show on outside wasn’t necessarily a negative? Andrade believes that this was the best production the Warde drama department has ever put on.
“I think the change of scenery and it being outside really added some motivation and ambience to the show as a whole,” she commented.
Likewise, Frattaroli added that although it was not necessarily his initial choice to direct in the courtyard, it was well received by audiences who were able to social distance themselves in the fresh air.
“Many audience members mentioned how being outdoors with birds singing and a real sky above them enhanced the setting, the feel of being in a park, and that as the sun went down and the stage lights took over, that it felt magical.”
And so, the courtyard setting unexpectedly heightened the performances and brought a new element to Sunday in the Park with George, unique to the efforts of Warde Drama Club.
Those involved in the drama club have found that being a part of this community is an experience unlike any other. Sophomore Dylan Toll was elated that Warde was able to continue with the musical this semester.
“I think I learned the true meaning of the word perseverance through this production,” he reflected.
From falling set pieces due to wind, rain forecasts, and quarantining, perseverance was most definitely taken away from this opportunity. It was this determination that allowed them to successfully put on a show and elevate it.
To underclassmen such as Toll, Andrade emphasizes the importance of pushing oneself- not only when it comes to theatre but in terms of the whole high school experience.
“Take risks! I played it safe… and I now know that I could have learned and done more had I moved out of my comfort zone a little,” she said.
From Steele’s perspective, one must work to find a community in which they can be themselves.
“Be you, unconditionally,” she imparted. “It is so rewarding to be yourself in a setting where people love and appreciate who you are as a human.”
It is from this idea that Warde’s performance derived. Frattaroli said, “it moves me to tears even though it’s not sad. Just beautiful and human.”
The musical itself, Sunday in the Park with George, is a beautiful show. Combined with the human aspect brought by those involved, it becomes as he described.
And, it seems appropriate that the production occurred as it did given the circumstances of both the story and our current times of the pandemic: outside, in a courtyard.