A Misérables Year at HPS?

With the help of Mrs. Ricci and Mr. Gainley, Hawken Players Society plans to bring to two beloved shows to the stage this year.  In the fall, they will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and in February, HPS will perform Les Miserables.

Where other than a Shakespeare play can you find fairies, enchanted woods, practical jokes, and outrageous love affairs?  In the fall, all of this and more will be coming to the stage as HPS presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The play is set in Athens and revolves around the adventures of two groups, four lovers and a troupe of actors, and their experiences with in a magical forest filled with fairies. Mr. Gainley and Mrs. Ricci plan to bring a mischievous, humorous, and impressive interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies to Hawken this November.  Auditions for A Midsummer Night’s Dream are already underway, and the show will be performed November 3rd through November 6th.

Hawken Player’s Society also will also be presenting Les Miserables as their winter musical. This February, the theatre group plans to take on the task of performing one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Les Miserables follows the protagonist, Jean Valjean, through Victor Hugo’s timeless novel in some of the most pivotal moments in French history.  The musical has won over fifty awards, including one Grammy and eight Tony Awards. The show has been performed in over forty-four different countries for millions of people across the globe.  Les Miserables will run February 17th through February 26th.

Most Hawken students are excited for the upcoming season. Caroline Turner, a senior member of HPS, proclaims, “I’m excited because these are my favorite shows of all time. I love Shakespeare so much.”  However, she is even more excited for Les Miserables.  She adds, “Not only is Les Mis one of the most famous musicals of all time, it is also one of the most challenging.  It is incredibly emotional and there are so many different elements that make this show a really incredible opportunity for everyone involved.”

Not only will the shows be demanding of the actors to perform their best, but it will also be an interesting year from a technical point of view.  Zoe Rodriguez, one of the student technical directors, explains that although the shows come with their challenges, it will truly be an exciting year for those behind the scenes.  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be in the round,” she says, “which means that there will be seating on all four sides.  This is really exciting because it’s not something you see often in high school theater, or at Hawken.  We will have to worry about sight lines, but overall it should be a fun challenge and a really cool experience.”  On Les Miserables, she says, “the show will be mostly student led, which is really great for anyone new or returning to tech this year.”

Of course, Hawken Upper School will be fighting to defend its title of “Best Technical Execution,” which they won in the Dazzle Awards last May. The Dazzle Awards are affiliated with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards and are presented by Broadway League Foundation.  The organization aims to produce inspiring performances and recognize the importance of musical theater and arts education in Northeast Ohio high schools.Dazzle Award

Ms. Ricci, the performing arts chair, is optimistic for the season.  She commented on what she thought students should take away from the productions, stating, “We choose these productions for the students because we are an educational setting. We want content that speaks for what we are working for. We want to engage the audiences through musical theater. We pick the seasons for the students instead of the audience.”

While on the topic of the upcoming season, Mrs. Ricci talked more about how the shows were chosen.  She says, “One important thing we do while deciding our shows are: Do they pass the Bechdel Test? The Bechdel Test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added. We also need content that has stood the test of time and is a strong musical that isn’t even questionable.”

Mr. Gainley, Hawken’s Theatre Director, hopes for everyone to leave with a message from the shows.  He states, “My belief as a director is that theater should be nourishing and cathartic.  Seeing a play should be like eating a big, delicious meal with friends and family. That’s my hope for these productions, that the community leaves our shows having gained something fulfilling and having changed for the better.”

Best of luck to HPS and their spectacular performances!