Process is more important than end results, Carol Cadby tells her students.
But after placing second in the district one-act play competition, and fourth in regional competitions, Cadby, Yorktown High School’s drama teacher, can tell her students that the end results are pretty good too.
“They did a good show,” she said, “One of the strongest shows they’ve done so far.”
Cadby’s third- and fourth-year drama students collaborated to write and produce “Mosquito,” a one-act play that explores how apparently insignificant actions can have ripple effects on the lives of others.
“We wanted to find a theme that would connect everyone,” said Julia Collins, one of the student writers and actors. Students began writing a play about the path of a dollar bill but ultimately decided the message of that play would be limited to a commentary on capitalism.
They scrapped the idea and five months ago developed the concept for “Mosquito.” The play is a series of vignettes, beginning with a baby crying over a mosquito bite. The cries alter the path of a passerby, and the changes in everyone’s lives lead to explorations of issues like social activism, feelings of alienation and teen homosexuality.
The play also focuses on the process rather than the goal, and ends where it begins, as a baby cries in a park. “We wanted the message that everybody is connected,” said Trystan Sill.
The connections between each vignette proved to be the most difficult part of writing, said Ben Nardolilli, one of eight students who did most of the writing. “We had a beginning and an end [right away],” he said.
STUDENTS TOOK the stage for their final performance of “Mosquito” on Saturday, Feb. 8, in the regional competition at Herndon High School, where the play came in fourth place. Cadby and her students felt a mixture of emotions as they finsihed working on the play, but they won’t take any time off. Yorktown’s drama program has already begun work on its spring production of “Our Town.”
Performing an American standard will be a different experience from creating a play from scratch.
“With writing your own show there comes a lot of conflicts as well as advantages,” said Collins. Students wrote as a group, so there were sometimes disagreements over which direction the script should take.
But egos didn’t clash, Cadby said. “It’s not about the individual, it’s about the show,” she said. Students made decisions independently as much as possible, but Cadby kept a close eye on the process. “It always needs to be refined,” she said.
That’s one of the advantages of writing your own show, students said. With just two days before the regional competition, dialogue and movement were still being modified. “It’s still a work in progress,” Collins said on Thursday.
COMPETITION HAD its advantages, but winning recognition from judges wasn’t the only goal of the exercise. “A lot of the plays we do are more for the educational value,” said Sibley Cotton.
Cadby hopes that the experience helped give students “a clear idea of what is theater as a whole.” From the beginning of the process, students embraced that goal. “We could give ourselves characters that would allow us to learn the most,” said Andrea Duran.
For a 30-minute play, “Mosquito” offered plenty of chances to explore the dramatic arts. Of the 22 students in Cadby’s upper-level class, 17 had roles in the play. Writing that many parts for a one-act play seems like a daunting task, but students said it was no trouble. They could have written in a few more parts if the other five students hadn’t had conflicts that kept them from rehearsing.
The biggest challenge was understanding the characters’ motivation, and staying focused, said Alexandra Jatras. To build focus, the cast practiced meditation and yoga in addition to their regular theater lessons.