In the Wings: A Behind the Scenes Look at Shakers Latest Show


Keira Quinn, Staff Writer

How to bring a show to life at Shaker


Every Fall, the Shaker High School theater department puts on a play in early November; Directed by Mrs. Martino. Shaker students will be performing Almost, Maine by John Cariani this year. However, to those outside the world of theater, the production of the shows are a bit of a mystery. To clear the air, I set out to interview the students and staff who put in an immense effort to bring these stories to life on stage. 

As I corresponded with Mrs. Martino, I learned a unique quality about Almost, Maine. There are no ensemble rehearsals, which is to say the cast doesn’t meet all together. Instead, the show occurs in small scenes in which there are only two actors on stage. If you’ve never been in a show, or have only been in a musical, this is a huge change of pace. Kallista, a freshman in the cast, had this to say. “I have it (rehearsal) every few days, lasting about an hour on average. I also work on character projections and how I’d like to perform my character, which I normally deliberate outside of rehearsal…¨ Kallista later clarified that these rehearsals can last up to three hours. Whilst in these shows, cast members are frequently found in and around the music wing. Going from one rehearsal, to say a music group is not unheard of, but common. Kallista was happy to tell me how she is in Bella Voche, Shaker’s auditioned female vocal group, and I got to listen to a few of them rehearse outside the auditorium. But to get into the action of rehearsals, and the work that goes into these shows, I was given the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal and watch some excellent directing and acting.

 Doing theater myself, I want to take this opportunity to break down the kind of things I saw discussed. Character motivation, for example, was the first thing that the actors, Bradley and Kallista, along with Mrs. Martino, discussed. Almost, Maine is a difficult undertaking because the entire focus is on the actors and their performance. If it’s not solid, there are no distractions allowed whatsoever. As rehearsal went on, they sat on their green bench in front of the stage, reading the script, stopping and starting again, listening and taking notes, as did I. 

I feel that it’s important for me to mention the fourth wall as well. As I said, Almost, Maine is a small show in the most literal sense, but it is also completely immersed in its own world. There is nothing acknowledging the audience, so the actors must identify and be immersed behind the fourth wall. Literally, the performers were staring at Shaker’s auditorium ceiling but their characters were looking at a clear night sky, free of light pollution. This ability to exist in their own world was something discussed at rehearsal, something important that isn’t necessarily in the scripts that contain actors’ lines, cues, and basic stage directions. 

While it’s a lot of effort, these things that are discussed in rehearsal also make performers love what they do. From Kallista, “I’ve never done a romantic comedy before, and I felt like Almost, Maine seemed like an interesting play to participate in!” and “I’ve left with new experiences and memories.” It’s these little details, the heart, and the excitement of the performers that make small-scale shows like Almost, Maine work. It’s the kind of thing that goes on in these rehearsals, which are different than you might expect. As I said, because the cast isn’t at rehearsals together, they are also at rehearsals less, because they have no cause to be at most of them. 

Each and every pair of actors, the stories that come together in this show, having to hear note after note each rehearsal, it’s my hope that you can understand a few of those core ideas, the kind that can make-or-break immersion. From what I saw at the rehearsal I sat in on, it’s clear that Shaker is educating its actors and putting together an exquisite show this Autumn. All this to say, I highly encourage you to go see Almost, Maine this November and go forth with your newfound knowledge of what immerses you in a show.