Speechless Fall Play Takes Center Stage


Rowan Mcwhinnie

Sage Westock’24, Teddy Masters’21 and Lorielei McCarthy rehearse for the fall play in the Claudia Boettcher Theater. This year’s fall play will feature several short devised plays. Actors will use theatrical masks in the performance, as pictured, while following COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

Rowan Mcwhinnie and Sabrina Wolfson

This coming November, the Upper School of Performing Arts will put on the Fall Play. The play will be markedly different from those in years past given the Covid-19 pandemic. The play will have no verbal dialogue, students six feet apart, and it will take place in front of an empty Claudia Boettcher Theater.

With new safety precautions put in place by the Health Department and Health Advisory Committee, directors Sean Breault and Meg O’Connor worked to restructure the form of a traditional Masters Fall Play and create a new experience for the community. 

“I never thought about not doing it. We need it. It’s important to the kids, it’s important to me, it’s something we do for the community,” O’Connor said.

Performed as three different miniature plays, this year’s production combines improv and scripted scenes, titled ‘Emotional Baggage and other Devisied Love Stories’. One group of actors is taking on ‘Emotional Baggage’, a 30 minute story by Lindsay Price, which serves as the only part of the play with scripted stage directions. The other students are split into four groups, taking on improvisation; combining music, gesture, and movement.

Avery Sheindlin, a junior in the Play, felt both challenged and satisfied when it came to improvisation for the upcoming production.

“Improv is stressful for me, so it’s a lot of work, but it [the play] is also a really great creative outlet,” he said.

For the production, theatrical masks both as a safety precaution, and to further transform students into their characters. During rehearsals every student is required to wear a regular face mask under the theatrical mask. The full face masks are sculpted, hand painted and made from neoprene, by an artist Jonathan Becker. Senior Sam New, who will be an actress in the play, was pleasantly surprised by the masks. 

“They are not what you would think of at all, it’s more accurate to describe them as Halloween masks,” New said.

While the cast and crew of the play prepares to adapt to the new changes, safety continues to be the number one priority. In order to abide by the rules set in place, the faculty and students are to social distance and thoroughly sanitize props and masks after use. 

O’Connor said, “We are being very careful about social distancing, we want to keep all of the students safe and healthy.”

In November, the Department of Performing Arts plans to film each play and make it accessible to the Masters Community online. 

Although vastly different from previous performances, the cast members are excited to show the community how they have adapted to a highly unusual set of circumstances.  

Breault said, “I want the audience to not think about the coronavirus for a second, and just look at the work that the students have done as a separate entity, not as a piece that was created because of something, but as something that these actors created.”