Behind the scenes: AT Theatre prepares for February musical production

With time flying by so fast, we’re nearly halfway through the school year. Returning to live, in-person shows, AT’s Theatre has already made its official comeback after having to adapt to last year’s restrictions brought by the high number of Covid cases in the area.

 “Trap,” was certainly a success, bringing in positive feedback from the audience. There are still two more shows planned for this school year, with the musical “Mamma Mia!” being the upcoming one. 

It is the perfect place for students to express their creativity and exhibit their talents. With the interest in Theatre being exceptionally high this year, theatre director Anna McSweeney shared some information about the process of picking out the shows for future years, the theatre staff who helps with productions, as well as decision making, and the experience of going back to performing in front of a live audience. 

McSweeney has been working with AT’s Theatre since 2005, taking on the role of the director a few years later. “I’m more in charge of like auditions and the directing, the on stage and the actors, but I’m also in charge of working with the other staff members, Mr. Mitchell, Mrs. Boisse, and Mr. Hollod, to create a vision and a design concept for each of the shows,” she described. 

There are also other staff members in charge of different aspects of the productions. “Mr Mitchell is always in charge of sets. Mrs. Boisse is in charge of costumes and props. Mr. Hollod is in our tech staff, he’s in charge of lighting and sound. For the musical we also have Mr. Nellesen who does music, Mr. Corey who does the orchestra kit, and then Mrs. Cescolini who does the choreography,” said McSweeney.

The shows are picked ahead of the time, with McSweeney and other staff members making the decisions. There are a lot of factors that influence the shows, but what the staff cares most about is doing shows that the students will enjoy being a part of. 

“Right now, we started thinking about next year. We look at the kids, we look at who’s in ‘Mamma Mia!,’” we look at kids who are not seniors, and what are the shows that we could do to feature their talent,” shared McSweeney. 

While she focuses a lot of her attention on what the students would like to perform, she also takes into consideration current trends and what plays are being performed at other high schools. “‘Trap’ was a show that I saw at a national festival, so it’s that kind of research and looking at what other people are doing,” she added.

Although the rehearsals for “Mamma Mia!” are already in progress, both staff members and students are still feeling the excitement of performing “Trap.” “It was amazing. It’s just shocking to think it had been two years and we really missed it,” said McSweeney.

Like many other clubs, AT’s Theatre had to adapt to the conditions of remote learning. Last year the Addams Family was performed live, but the audience was rather small with the school still being in remote learning due to high numbers of Covid cases. 

The experience was difficult for students and staff, but they also made the best out of a tough situation and managed to learn from it. 

“I think it made us a little bit more flexible. When we think about student needs, we can be as accommodating as possible and everybody just has to do their best,” explained McSweeney.

The positive experience coming back to live performances does not stop the staff from looking for ways to improve. 

“One of the most difficult things we’re dealing with right now is scheduling. It’s really hard to accommodate everyone’s schedules. That’s something we just have to keep working on and remind the students about commitment. 

“When you commit to a show, you know, you have to give other clubs those schedules. It’s a learning curve, especially being out for the last year and a half,” admitted McSweeney.

Still, there has been a high interest in AT’s Theatre and the enthusiasm students have for the club has only grown. “They really, really missed it and right now that kind of need and how much they love it is the biggest strength ,” she added. 

So far we have only seen one show, but Theatre already managed to make a great impression on both new and returning students. While the play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is still a few months away, students are already anticipating “Mamma Mia!,” which will be performed Feb. 3-5.