The show must go on

Theater program offers virtual workshops


Mia Lewis '21, Yearbook staff

Thespian Society vice president Jessica Ruibal ’21 discusses what the group is doing to stay connected while students are learning online.

You are vice president of the thespian society right?

What do you want me to say? I’m vice president and I’m a senior of Troupe 1075. Being vice president has really taught me that being a part of theatre is like being a part of a second family that’s really loving and accepting.

I feel like you’ve definitely rehearsed that before.

Yeah, no I’m kidding. Our improv workshops on Mondays have really been helping me out.

How’s that going?

They’re great. We’re trying to keep this year as interactive and as “normal” as possible. That’s a little hard via Zoom because it’s theater. But we’re trying to make it as normal or as close to normal as possible, so workshops are kinda like our vice right now.

How’s the turnout been for those?

They’ve been great. Of course we’re not expecting like 800 people, but the people who do show up are really passionate about what they show up to, whether that be improv workshops on Mondays, writing workshops on Wednesdays or general thespian meetings on Thursdays, but yeah because they are after school things, people who are passionate about the workshops are going to show up because it’s not a requirement. So you’re only going to show up if you want to show up.

Who’s idea was that, for the workshops?

The workshops were unanimously all of the officers ideas but I would probably say most credit went to either Lorena San Pedro, who is our president, or Mrs. Pratt, but I think all the officers kinda contributed to the idea of keeping it as close to normal as possible and then figuring out ways to help form bonds with our troupe members that we aren’t going to get to normally how we would this year, like we’re not going to be able to see those people in person, so we figured workshops or extra time after school is the closest way to normal.

You said there’s a playwriting workshop tomorrow and there’s a guest coming, who is it?

For our writing workshops on Wednesdays, tomorrow we are having a guest speaker which is obviously a famous playwright named Don Zolidis. I actually had to do a little research on this guy. He has been entitled the most produced playwright in American schools which is really cool. He has like over 11,000 plays or whatever so he’s really accomplished, so it’s going to be really exciting hearing from someone who’s doing the things that all the playwriting people that attend the workshops love to do. It’s really cool because he’s getting paid to do something we love to do.

I’ve heard you’ve written plays before?

Yeah I’ve written a couple, nothing too crazy like Don Zolidis or Erin Mallron, but yeah definitely everything I’ve written I’ve put a piece of myself into, so I relate to all my pieces in some way, as weird as that may sound.

Is that something you want to do in the future?

Yeah, I would love to write, if you want the really metaphorical, really professional reason, it’s because I love writing, I love creating these worlds you don’t normally see in the mundane normal life. I’m not a super exciting person, so to be able to create these super exciting worlds, it’s something super cool. But if you want the real reason why I playwright, I like to call it “pulling a Lin-Manuel Miranda”, who wrote Hamilton, he writes all his stuff and so he gets to be in all of his stuff. So that’s kind of like a bonus, I can be in it, that’s also a fun part about playwriting.

What else is going on in theater besides the workshops? 

We’re having a film festival starting in October. The information for that is already been released, but we’re having the first film fest in October with the most prominent theme being Halloween, because it’s October. Me and Lorena are the ones who kinda came up with it and Pratt signed off on it. That’s because me and Lorena were making a short film over quarantine. We were staying safe and everything, don’t worry, but we were like ‘wow it’s boring being stuck in quarantine, let’s do something’ and we became really ambitious and started writing a short film. We started filming that and then we were like ‘oh my gosh this is over an hour long’ so it’s not a short film, so that’s why we’re having film fests, because me and Lorena are like ‘hey we have this movie, let’s do something with it’. Unfortunately though, the rules we have are 10 minute short films, and ours is about 50 minutes long. So yeah, the film fests are really cool because it’s giving people that opportunity to do something that time now permits because we have all of this time outside of school, especially with the hours in between. Of course, be safe, but now we have all this time, so why not do something kind of life changing, because making a movie, although it may not be put in movie theaters, it’s still a really cool experience to say ‘hey I’ve made a movie.’

Can I know what it’s about, a short synopsis of your film?

We created it in one night, the filming took forever, but the production and writing side of it took one night. Not to brag or anything. Essentially it’s about two friends that have a school project that’s making a visual brochure. The prompt is ‘why should we visit this town’, so they’re like ‘oh my gosh this will be super easy, we’re like kinda into the whole movie scene’. So Lorena’s character is like ‘hey I used to live in this old town before I moved here, let’s go film there. It’s like half an hour out of town, we’ll be fine’. So they go and as filming starts to progress they realize the town is not what it seems, and that there’s a darker secret that’s hidden underneath the surface of this town. So that’s not giving anything away. We tried to go for more of a suspenseful thriller, so it is on the scarier side, and we were kinda like ‘wow this could be a really boring movie unless we have the right actors in it’. Luckily, in the movie we’re staying in an Airbnb and we got Lorena’s grandmother to be like ‘hey you can film in my house in exchange for a part in your movie’, so Lorena’s grandmother is doing really well in the movie, she’s really scary.

There’s a lot of creative people at our school so I feel like that film festival would be fun.

Yeah, it’s to attract as many creative people as possible and just have tons of films or plays or whatever we advertise at this point.

I know Mrs. Pratt, going back to the workshops, was talking about opening them up to other schools to come too?

Yeah, we are opening them up to other schools. So, essentially it got started with ‘one of my friends at this school aren’t in school yet and wanna get back into the swing of theater, so how do we get them involved?’. So Pratt’s mentality is ‘well why not include as many people as possible, especially right now in a time of isolation, let’s try to connect as much as possible’, so \we were like ‘yeah, let’s open it up to as many schools [as possible]’. So now we have about 4 other theater troupes coming to meetings right now. I know yesterday for our improv workshop from what I heard it was a really great meeting and the other schools really enjoyed being able to do something finally cuz you know they aren’t having like film fests and they’re not making movies.

You’re in regular theater (class) right? How are those classes working over zoom?

I’m in a specific theater class, musical theater, because I’m a big broadway nerd. For the regular theater classes, because I teacher aide theater 2, we’re planning on having an improv show, like a virtual improv jam, which kinda goes with the Monday improv workshops. So the regular theater classes are working on improv games and preparing for that because we want people to participate in the virtual jam. When it comes to musical theater, it’s individual stuff. It’s learning dance routines and then submitting those for a grade, or bettering your song selection. Especially because me, Caleb, and a bunch of other seniors in that class, if we are willing to pursue musical theater it’s a very risky career to pursue. But you know I’m the “genius” that’s pursuing it, so we have to start focusing and working our way to college auditions which as scary as it sounds, its pretty scary because we get one song that kinda determines our future. So not to put it in a scary perspective but it’s really scary, we’re starting to work our way into that even though it’s still a year away practically. But we’re trying to perfect it as much as possible. A lot of it right now is just preparatory stuff. We’re not just like sitting down, obviously because it’s a theater class, but Pratt’s like ‘you’ve been sitting down for your other seven classes of the day so let’s switch it up and let’s dance’, yeah she opens up all her classes with music.

Imagining we do go back to school, would the workshops and working with other schools still continue?

If we go back in person, I feel like it still can go on. Obviously it would still be over Zoom, unless things get like REALLY better, an exaggerated amount better. But I feel like we will still try to incorporate other troupes, because even last year our plan was to always go watch shows with other troupes or have picnics, form that bond or unity with other troupes but now it’s kind of hard. It’s not impossible but if we do continue it it will still be via Zoom, especially because we’re not a close by school.

Just in general, like this whole school year, what’s your attitude towards it and virtual learning?

I’m optimistic that people are going to try and make this year as best as it can be, as close to normal as it can be. I feel like that’s one of the things that’s kind of like keeping everyone together, that hope that we can and that we will eventually go back to normal, whether or not that’s like the same normal is a completely different question. My attitude for the year is slowly and slowly becoming more optimistic.

Is there anything else theater wise we didn’t talk about?

Pratt wants to do virtual plays because we’re not getting to act as of right now and there is no school or no going back in person and we aren’t going to be able to perform on that stage. For a lot of people, that’s why we like theater so much. It’s not because we’re rehearsing, it’s because we’re performing. So to make up for the fact that we aren’t having a musical, which for some people, me especially, the no musical, which obviously I had to come to the realization that we weren’t going to do that. That was kind of sad because last year I finally got a supporting role, so this year it was like ‘oh my god, I’m gonna get a lead’, and then that didn’t happen. But with time I’ll be on Broadway with Tony one day, but going back to Pratt, she was like ‘well maybe there’s a way y’all still can perform’ so she’s looking into virtual table reads which people will come watch the Zoom. I’m not exactly sure of the details, maybe we’ll record the zoom and then she’ll post that to our troupe YouTube and then we’ll sponsor it on our social medias, but it’ll be like scripts of plays or of not necessarily movies and TV shows because of  copyright, but strictly plays because those are easier to come by. But yeah she’ll cast people, we’ll have rehearsals and auditions, and then we’ll perform it, just to give us that sense of normalcy, but I know she’s looking at Clue right now. ‘Clue: the virtual production’ I think is what it’s specifically called, which is obviously based on the board game. So I think that’ll be really cool and great idea. Other people have done it but I think now that it’s actually a possibility and it’s more of ‘we’re GOING to do that’, I think it’s really cool because it does give people something to look forward to other than ‘hey we’re having a workshop today after school’ you know?

I feel overall theater is handling this situation very well.

Yeah, and maybe it’s because I’m only in choir and theater, like I’m not in speech and debate or ASL or whatever but as far as I know theater so far is the only club or class that’s really doing anything. I mean I get it, ASL is hard and speech and debate is hard, but as of right now theater is kind of the only one doing something and I think that makes us stand out and I think that’s going to bring in people which is ultimately better for the theater community because that’s more outreach and people learning about theater and wanting to join theater which is really cool and really awesome. So that’s a well done to Mrs. Pratt, like … props to her.