1984: a behind-the-scenes look

“[Theater] is so much like being a chef,” Xavier Carrillo, the technical director of the TP Players’ most recent production, “1984,” said. “You have so many seasonings and ingredients, with different recipes for different shows. If you are even missing that pinch of salt, everything is going to be thrown off.”

Between creating the set, adjusting the lighting, controlling the sound, acting out the plot and directing, each of these contributions serves as an equally integral ingredient in the creation of a successful show. 

“1984” was no exception, running for 8 shows between Nov. 7 and Nov. 18. A rendition of the famous novel “1984” by George Orwell, the play told the story of a dystopian society lorded over by an almighty power called Big Brother. 

The base ingredients upon which the TP Player’s “1984” depended were established during rehearsals, which took place almost every day after school for around seven weeks prior to opening night. 

“During rehearsal, there’s always a schedule of what we’re going to do, but it is somewhat flexible — [we are] constantly fine-tuning,” president of TP Players Gwynnie Kermorris (12) said. “We really take time to grow the characters we play and connect with them … Most importantly, we get to know each other as a cast.” 

These rehearsals usually opened with a funny story from Visual and Performing Arts teacher and TP Players’ adviser Marinee Payne, after which the cast socialized before walking through the scenes, according to TP Players’ Vice President Keira Murray (12). 

Both Kermorris and Murray acted in the play and took advantage of rehearsal time to prepare.

“You have to get used to memorizing everything and understanding what’s about to happen on stage,” Murray said. 

Not only do actors study the script to memorize their lines, they do so to gain an in-depth understanding of their character. 

“The entire backpage of my ‘1984’ script is completely filled with writing of how the [the playwright] sees my character, how my character sees themselves and how other people might see my character,” Murray said. Murray played the female lead, Julia.

Student Director, Avani Raturi (12) recognized the actors’ character-building techniques.

“They’ll develop whole backstories [for their characters], because when you [first] get a character, it’s super two-dimensional,” Raturi said. “Even in ensemble, people will come up with [backstories].”

Raturi’s role as student director not only allowed her to help the actors, but it was integral throughout the entire creation of the show.

“As a third point of view, I’ll see [the actors] and I’ll make suggestions of what looks best. I’ll say ‘maybe move here’ or ‘move around more when you’re talking’ or ‘try this with your hands’ and so on,” Raturi said. “Then me and Marinee collaborate on furniture, props and what outfits [actors] should wear.”

Alongside Raturi, Payne and Carrillo work months in advance to create the perfect environment for the spirit of the show, much of which includes set construction aided by students in the Drama Production class.

“As an audience member, you might not understand why [something about the environment makes] you feel weird, so it’s our job to take the time to make sure that you’ll be comfortable the whole time,” Carrillo said. 

Even with Carrillo seen as a set mentor by the students, Payne goes out of her way to make sure each play is still primarily student-run. 

“[Carrillo and I] let the designers run what they’re thinking, and if we need to make corrections, we discuss the corrections. It’s a really wonderful, collaborative, mutual, respectful space,” Payne said. 

The final mood shown on opening day — the eerie atmosphere shaped by dim lighting and foreboding music — is the result of months of hard work by Lainey Costabile (10), the lighting designer, and Seb Pinnick (10), who worked in sound design.

“When I go [to rehearsal] … I have to look at the mood of the scene and make decisions on the lighting,” Costabile said. “You have to be very careful to make sure there are no shadows and that it’s specific to the [areas on stage] people use in the show.”

As Carrillo put it, each part — the acting, the scene placement, the lighting, the sound — are all equally important ingredients to produce a show. And, in the TP Players, anyone can be a chef.

“The inclusion of everybody who wants to be a part of [TP Players] is such a mission statement to me,” Murray said. “We just want more than anything for more people to feel comfortable joining a group like this, and for more people to see what we do and what we are capable of.”

Payne agreed. 

“I always used to jokingly say we’re like a gang. We come to school, we have a place where we belong, a place where we can live and a place where every person is accepted,” Payne said. “There’s no judgment here about the individual. Everything we do is all related to the show.”

As for upcoming performances, TP Players’ next show, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” is already in the works and set to debut after winter break.

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