Wakefield high school has one of the most diverse student bodies in Arlington County, with students originating from more than 59 countries. Since the entire world is a stage, this is reflected in the actors in the theatre department. Several award-winning cast members have recently come to Wakefield from schools in India, Spain, and Ethiopia. Their prior experience with drama ranges from no exposure to performing with a professional troupe.
Nabanjan Maitra came to Wakefield as a sophomore directly from Calcutta, India where he had attended Lamartineire for Boys Calcutta School. His school was a well-established institution modeled on The British System, but without theatre opportunities within the school. Mabanjan had no previous experience in drama productions, but has taken very successfully to stage performance, having strong parts in over three Wakefield productions as well as Signature Theatre. He chose drama class his first term as part of the exploration of American activities, similar to applying his cricket expertise into playing varsity baseball.
Nabanjan said, "Theatre is far more professional here than in India where it is not considered a professional field. I think it is unfortunate that in India all these naturally talented people are not able to explore their talents. Their motivation for this art is defeated because theatre is not considered a valid career option. Here, Americans take it more seriously, as they do most things: There is more exposure, more funding and more programs. I think the exposure is good." Nabanjan enjoys his theatre experiences immensely, as do the audiences who appreciate his talent. He has won the Best Actor award at a Virginia Theater Association for his lead role in "The Lady in Question."
Siri Piza Airas is a Spanish exchange student from Barcelona who has taken her experience with professional weekend theatre groups in Spain straight to the Wakefield stage, only this time in the English language. Siri has found many ways to let her dramatic style be showcased in everything from a strict Austrian matriarch in "The Lady in Question" to Tituba, the Barbados slave in the "Crucible". Siri won a VTA award as All Star Cast Member. "I love the chance to do such a variety of roles here," she said.
Amanda Eckerson attended the International Community School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for four years before coming to Wakefield as a junior. Her drama experience began in Addis with electives and annual school musicals. Amanda has always loved character roles and has won many awards as Best Actress in the drama competitions in Virginia these last two years.
She was selected to attend the Governor's School for the Performing Arts at the University of Richmond this last summer where her love for theatre solidified into a career goal. Amanda, a graduating senior, hopes to attend the Northwestern University School of Speech next year. "Theater is not just about performing ... it is communicating the experiences of life back and forth with the audience. We each (actor and audience) bring to it what we know to be true; and then take away something different in the exchange."
All three of these veteran actors have roles in the upcoming Wakefield musical, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" to be performed May 2-4.