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19 November 2017
Ogunde Snelling (12), Zachary Scalzitti (11), Mark Judge ('16), Joey Albomonte ('16), and Tyree Austin (12) prepare to go to Nebraska for national theater competitions. Photo taken by Alex Lee.

Andrean Theater: Raising the Bar Even Higher

After the Andrean Theatre Company’s very successful production of Beauty and the Beast last spring, one would think that the thespians would utilize their summer to take a break from the hustle and bustle of theater. However, many of the actors and actresses did not stop to rest. Even over the summer, the halls of Andrean were filled with theater members hosting a middle school theater summer camp or preparing for Peter and the Starcatcher.

The main theater event of the summer did not actually take place at Andrean, however; the National Theatre Conference was hundreds of miles away in Nebraska. Students Zach Scalzitti, Ogunde Snelling, Tyree Austin, and former student Mark Judge each earned a superior medal, and former student Joey Albomonte earned an excellent medal. A superior medal is the highest one which can be earned.

For Tyree Austin, who performed a duet with Ogunde Snelling titled “Confrontation” from Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, the national competition was an experience that he will never forget. It was a great opportunity for him to be exposed to the many different kinds of people and aspects of theater. Despite his aching feet, Austin has also said that the trip was one of the best weeks he has experienced in his entire life.

One of the highlights of Austin’s journey was hearing that he and his friends scored excellently during the competition. “I remember Mr. Grabek directing us all to one of the conference rooms in our dorm to see our scores and rankings,” he said. “When he showed us the score sheet, I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. I remember that Ogunde started prancing around the room. It was definitely a sight to see. At that moment, I realized maybe I have a chance to pursue this for a living.”

Mr. Stephen Grabek, Andrean’s theater director, is more proud of these performers than anyone. “When they found out their rankings, I was beaming with pride. I knew that they would do great, but watching their expressions when they received their awards is something that I’ll never forget,” he said. This year, members of the Andrean Theatre Company will compete in regional competitions on Saturday, November 5.

1Grabek has more recently been engrossed in directing this year’s fall play, Peter and the Starcatcher. The show will be performed by Andrean’s Thespian Society, which includes senior Allison Biscocho, who plays the main character Molly. She has been putting at least fourteen hours a week into theater since rehearsal began. Combine this with soccer practice, and there is little time left for homework or anything else, really. Surprisingly, she does not mind. “I look forward to going to theater, so I’m fine with it,” she said.

Biscocho was also a part of Andrean’s productions of Almost Maine, The Drowsy Chaperone, Holes, and Beauty and the Beast. However, this will be her most prominent role yet. “I’m really excited because this is the biggest part I’ve ever had,” Biscocho said, “and then I’m nervous because this is the biggest part I’ve ever had.” Luckily, with her experience in theater and her good chemistry with the male lead, Ogunde Snelling, she is well equipped to shine on stage when the play premieres on October 6.

Grabek has dealt with his own challenges while directing Peter and the Starcatcher. The show does not just use typical props or set pieces; actors are mixed in with the objects of the show. “We have actors playing a pirate in one scene, a door in the next.  It’s chaos, but when you add careful timing into it, you are left with a serious wow factor,” Grabek said.

Austin, who will play the character Smee, said that this is just one of the things that will set this show apart from Beauty and the Beast. “[As opposed to] the musical in the spring, the Thespian show focuses a lot more on the acting and portrayal of characters. This show is very fast-paced, intriguing, and requires the audience to really use their imagination.”4

Besides Peter and the Starcatcher, the Andrean Theatre Company will also perform A Christmas Story for its winter play and Shrek: The Musical for its spring musical. Many students have already taken a special interest in the musical because of popular online memes based on the Dreamworks animated movie. “[The movie] seems to be a favorite as far as animated films go for this generation,” Grabek said.

Grabek saw Shrek: the Musical in Chicago years ago and thought it was hilarious, and he chose the show with hopes that it would be a cut above last year’s production. “We got our feet wet with a very high spectacle production last year with Beauty and the Beast, but Shrek has more prosthetic makeup, outrageous costumes, and even more intricate scenery,” he said.

For those who are interested in becoming involved with Andrean theater, the first coffeehouse will be on Thursday, September 8, and all are welcome to perform. Also, auditions for A Christmas Story will be at the end of October.

This year, the Andrean Theatre Company hopes to step it up even more than before. If they can accomplish that, this will prove to be an absolutely stunning season. The goal is to not to just excel in high school theater competitions, but to meet standards set beyond high school. In the words of Mr. Stephen Grabek, “We never want an audience member to say, ‘that was good for a high school show,’ but rather, ‘that was a really remarkable show.’”

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