Arts in the News
Milton’s performing arts faculty and students found creative solutions to bridge distances and time zones to offer a full slate of performances this fall, including the plays Macbeth, The Illustrated Bradbury, and this weekend’s Class IV play, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.
Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort, who directed the Class IV play, said about one-third of the 15 cast members are international students, so meetings and rehearsals were scheduled to accommodate different time zones. Each student received a green screen and filmed themselves performing in front of it. Faculty member Shane Fuller edited the scenes together to look as if the actors were in the same place. The show opens Thursday, October 29. Details about accessing the performances are below.
“The students have been amazing, and I’m really proud of them. Performing remotely is challenging—this is the world we’re living in right now,” Kort said. “We really wanted this to be the best experience it could be for our incoming freshmen. They deserve that and we wanted them to feel special, and to meet each other. A lot of them were thankful for the shared experience.”
All the fall performances are recorded, instead of live. This approach, while a challenge to coordinate, provided many learning opportunities for faculty and students as they adapted to creating engaging shows during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Macbeth, director Peter Parisi and production manager Evan DelGaudio split Shakespeare’s tragedy into six separate episodes. Middle School music teacher Alan Rodi provided an original score. The first episode was posted to a Vimeo page last week and new episodes will be added weekly. On Friday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the play will end with a final, live online event.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a series of vignettes based on the bestselling book by Robert Fulghum. The show features funny and serious stories about the themes we learn as little kids.
“We learn these values in kindergarten like sharing, and being kind, and they kind of go by the wayside as we become adults,” Kort said. “There are stories about childhood and about older people, so it’s a whole range. It’s a really sweet play.”
People can watch All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten beginning Thursday, October 29 through Saturday, October 31. Links to each performance are available on the Performing Arts Department’s Eventbrite page. Once registered for an event, viewers will receive a link and a password to access their selected performance. Links are open on the day of production for 24 hours from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. Eastern Time the following day. Additionally, students will have access to a live watch party through their CampusGroups accounts, which will be held on Friday, October 30 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. This is an opportunity for students to watch and support the performers together.
The Illustrated Bradbury, a series of 10 stories by the author Ray Bradbury, runs online from November 12 through November 14. The play is narrated by Bradbury’s famous character “The Illustrated Man” and features the author’s signature blend of fantasy and science fiction. Director Darlene Anastas went above and beyond to include student cast members from around the world, waking up at 4 a.m. to direct a student filming in Saudi Arabia as well as doing her own filming on campus, said Performing Arts Department Chair Kelli Edwards.
Fuller, as a theater designer and filmmaker, has been an invaluable resource to help translate theater productions to film, Edwards said.
“Our goal this year was to create a situation where anyone who wanted to participate could, no matter where they were, both in performing and in tech,” Edwards said. “It means that everything we’re doing, at least for the fall, is filmed. We’re using a lot of different platforms depending on what the shows need. It’s been really complicated, but we’re doing it.”
Tickets for The Illustrated Bradbury will be available on the Eventbrite page during its run from November 12 through November 14.
Two student films were accepted into the All American High School Film Festival in the drama category. Dash Evett ‘21 and Jace Fuller’s ‘21 film, The Grievance, featured Conner Hartman ‘21, Ben Simpson ‘21, and Charlie Volpe ‘20. Evett’s’s film, Guy, featured himself and his brother Spencer Evett ‘17. Normally, the films would be presented at a live festival in October in New York City, but this year it will be virtual.
The Grievance is a story about a man named Liam, played by Hartman, who gets trapped in a supernatural cemetery. A bullying incident from his past comes back to haunt him. Evett and Fuller did all the shooting, writing, music, and editing. “A lot of hours of shooting were outside in the cold, and sometimes in complete darkness,” said Evett. “It was my first time making something with a horror vibe, so it was cool to film in a dark cemetery.”
“One of my favorite challenges in filmmaking is giving the audience a proper scare; one that curdles the blood and raises the heartbeat,” said Fuller. “With a low budget of zero dollars, we both agreed we couldn’t show scary monsters or frightening circumstances. Instead, we had to make a psychological horror that could play with scares without showing anything.”
Fuller said despite the less than ideal filming environment, Hartman was “patient and cooperative with us as well thoughtful and invested in his acting. He, and the rest of the cast, Volpe and Simpson, brought this film to life in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined.”
Evett’s film Guy is about a young man, James, who’s stuck in life and finds a man living in his basement. This man eventually helps the main character reflect on his life. “This film was easier to make,” said Evett. “It was a lot more of a personal film, kind of shedding a light on how people sometimes tend to ignore their own insecurities and blame things on other people. I think it’s reflective of my style as a filmmaker. I like films about people that are very raw and vulnerable. It’s more real when your characters are more human and flawed.”
Both Evett and Fuller said they are thrilled to have their films recognized and credit Milton and their friends with helping make their dreams a reality.
Ordinarily, the National Speech and Debate Association’s (NSDA) year-end tournament is a blockbuster, in-person event: Thousands of students and their coaches take over a host city for a week of end-to-end competition that determines the best student speakers and debaters in the country.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was held virtually. Five thousand students from 1,300 schools competed from home for NSDA recognition. They included seven Milton students: Jana Amin ’21, Jack Burton ’22, Tim Colledge ’21, Miranda Paiz ’21, Nyla Sams ’20, Benjamin Simpson ’21, and Tyler Tjan ’22.
Because the students pre-recorded their submissions, the adrenaline of rushing around an unfamiliar school or conference center was absent from this year’s nationals, said Paiz.
“I found online nationals to be much calmer than the in-person tournaments. Competitors were able to watch the rounds, which were judged synchronously—a benefit of the online tournament was that you could submit your recording and just sit back and see how you did,” she said. “But I missed my team. I miss warm-ups with them, check-ins throughout the day, cheering at the awards ceremony until our voices got hoarse, and going for late-night fro-yo after the tournament.”
Paiz was a semi-finalist in poetry reading. She performed a program called “Modern Witchcraft,” a series of pieces connecting the historical persecution of witches and challenges for survivors of abuse. She spent hours on Zoom with Performing Arts faculty member Scott Caron preparing her piece, restructuring it and fine-tuning it to give it the right emotional heft.
Burton, a semi-finalist in humorous interpretation, received an automatic qualification for the 2021 national tournament with his performance from “Father of the Bride.” Leading up to this year’s NSDA tournament, Burton competed in three other virtual competitions, which helped him adjust to performing on video without audience feedback.
“The online tournament was an opportunity to get creative with the camera,” he said. “I chose this piece because it has a wonderful balance between heartwarming moments and laugh-out-loud humor. It’s universal—all parents have to deal with letting their children go in some capacity. Making connections is the most rewarding part of speech.”
In addition to Paiz and Burton, Colledge, who competed with the New England Worlds School Debate Team, was a double-octa-finalist in debate.
In Nicole Darling’s Technology, Media and Design class, students are learning about typography, which is the art and technique of type design, lettering, and calligraphy.
“It is arguably one of the most important components of graphic design. It requires designers to have the ability to make messages readable while expressing, emoting, and projecting concepts to the audience,” says Darling.
The unit consists of three different projects designed to help students develop their sensitivity to type, and increase their appreciation for different type-anatomy and aesthetics.
“In this first project students were asked to create a collage using found printed material,” says Darling. “The style and size of the letters, as well as the density of the text, are explored as graphic shapes and textures.”
Performing Arts Department Chair Kelli Edwards has found creative ways for her Advanced Dance Choreography students to continue to learn and grow as dancers from the confines of their homes. For a recent assignment, students had a choice between creating a tight-space dance or creating a ritual dance.
Alli Reilly ’20 chose the first option, for which the instructions read: Embrace even more your lack of space and make a movement study based on a very tiny amount of space. No more than 3 feet by 3 feet. Your movement must include level change and traveling! And some sort of “big” movement that you would never think could fit in that space.
“Since remote learning started, some of my favorite assignments have been those for my Advanced Choreography class because of the freedom we have to dance in new spaces and incorporate film into our choreography,” says Reilly.
For this assignment she says, “I immediately thought of my closet. I propped my phone up in the one corner where it could balance on its own, and began choreographing with that camera angle in mind. I chose to dance to Billie Eilish’s ‘Hostage,’ using the piece as an outlet for some of the emotions I’ve been feeling as a senior during this time.”