Retaking The Stage

The curtains are rising. At last.

In March 2020, the Upper School’s production of Newsies opened and closed on the same night; it was the last major live theatrical production before the pandemic began. Now, with vaccinations in arms and safety protocols in place, live theater is happening again. The Middle School kicked off with two short plays performed under the title The Mask Project. The first, We Are Masks, featured both 8th grade drama classes; the second, Emotional Baggage, was an extracurricular activity.

“The first play is about the masks that we all sometimes hide behind, depending on who we’re with and the situation,” says Middle School theater teacher Garry Tiller. “The message is very strong: Can we get beyond the masks that we wear?” The second play, also performed in masks, is entirely nonverbal and tells the story of various characters searching for connection as they cross paths in a train station.

Getting the students back onstage after nearly two years was a challenge and a joy. “This year was very much about starting over—some of these kids haven’t done any theater or even seen any theater for years, if at all,” he says. “There were a lot of teachable moments that came along with doing this, and it was incredibly exciting. I was trying to make up for lost time.”

That was the sense when the Upper School began rehearsals for its fall play, Puffs, Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic. The comedy by Matt Cox tells the story of a certain famous boy wizard, but from the point of view of the students sorted into the Hufflepuff house, who are often overshadowed by the members of the more famous houses.

“The very first rehearsal, there was this energy in the room,” says Upper School theater teacher Sentell Harper. “The cast was just so excited to be in person, and as we’ve gotten closer and closer there’s been this energy that’s been pulling us through.”

Harper, who is himself a Hufflepuff according to the online Pottermore quiz, found a surprising meaning in exploring the characters in Hogwarts’ friendliest house.

“First, it’s fun—and I think everyone needed to laugh and breathe and just have joy again,” he says. “And Puffs is a story about friendship; it’s a story about these friends who may never have come together, but this unfortunate and crazy circumstance tied all of these people together in this one community. It’s about the people who may not have the most power, but because of who they are they are able to be part of a greater good. My goal and hope is that the audience will go out and honor their inner Puff, and say, ‘Yes! I, too, am a Hufflepuff!’”


View Photos from Puffs

Watch The Mask Project


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