Behind the Curtains: How PV Picks the Perfect Plays
Franchesca Livraghi '18
20 January 2017
Behind each play at Passaic Valley, there are a lot of different things that have to get done in order to make it a success. Play rights need to be given, auditions need to be held, actors and actresses need to be chosen, costumes need to be designed- and these are only a few of the things that need to be completed.
PV puts together three plays a year: the Fall Play, the Holiday Play, and the Spring Play. The Fall Play is run by Ms. Caren Atamian, the Holiday Play is run by the students, and the Spring Play is run by Mrs. Jennifer Shue and Mrs. Maggie Letche.
One of the first steps to perform a high school play is to purchase the rights. Play rights are the exclusive right to perform a play and the cost for them can vary tremendously. To receive the rights and get ahold of a play’s script, Mrs. Shue and Ms. Atamian apply online and wait anywhere from a couple days to a few months for a response. While applying, the information required is typically the size of our auditorium, how many nights the play will be performed, and the price of our tickets. Since we are so close to New York, it can be difficult and expensive to acquire rights.
The longest play we had to wait for was Grease, where the wait was two months. PV has only been rejected the rights for a play a couple times: Into the Woods and Crimes of the Heart. Into the Woods was denied over this past summer, because a film version, starring Meryl Streep, had recently released. Ms. Atamian says, “We were denied Crimes of the Heart two years ago because there cannot be duplicate theaters showing the same play.” Basically, someone beat us to it, but hopefully the play will soon see the stage.
The plays are picked by what would best fit the cast. Ms. Atamian says she likes to pick based off the cast she estimates she will have.”I start thinking about what genre the next play will be about two weeks after the previous play is done.”
Auditions for the plays are a big component of putting the play together. Auditions for the three individual plays are done a bit differently. The actors and actresses for the Fall Play are chosen during the very first weeks of September and Mrs. Atamian says she only does one audition, in which students are provided with a monologue and asked to perform a cold read. A cold read is reading aloud from a script with no rehearsal nor practice in advance. Their cold read performance determines whether or not the student receives a call back. If the student does receive a call back, Ms. Atamian then gives them a scene from the show to act.
The auditions for the Holiday Play are all done in one day and if the staff thinks a student will receive a lead role, they get a call back for a second audition. During the second audition, students read off the script for the role the staff thinks he/she fits best.
The auditions for the Spring Play are similar; however, if the staff has interest in a student, they will have to complete third set of auditions. For both the Holiday and Spring play auditions, students are asked to do things like sing "Happy Birthday", dance, etc. since these two performances are musicals.
Most of the costumes are provided by PV’s costume designer, Maggie Letche. Sometimes we rent them, other times make them, or in some cases we receive donations. Some of the costumes we already have and are the school’s. However, for the Holiday Play the students bring in their own costumes since it is a student run show.
Although the production of the plays is hard work, as students devote most of their week to rehearsing, the faculty members and participants can agree that at the end it’s worth it.