Though it may appear to be a normal living room, the ominous cage of snakes on the table and the questionable decorations on the bookshelves push the audience to the edge of their seats. The distinguishable sounds of a typewriter clacking lead into Mim Pomerantz ’18 entering the stage to begin the first scene of You Can’t Take It with You.
From October 31 to November 4, Deerfield put on a 1930s comedy, You Can’t Take It with You. Directed by Visual & Performing Arts Teacher Catriona Hynds, the cast consisted of 22 actors and 14 technical team members.
“Mrs. Hynds put a lot of work into directing a period piece and it’s extra work for the actors; they need to know how characters from that time stood and sat and talked,” noted Assistant Director Adaire Robinson. “For this piece we decided it had to be super realistic, naturalistic, in fact. Everything in the house is what would be found in a real house at that time, and the audience will feel very much that they have stepped into their home.”
Acting in a black box theatre setting can be challenging. Due to the way the size of the theatre squeezes the audience into every corner of the box, not only do the actors have to be careful about turning their backs to any spectators, but they also have to be in character throughout the entire production. Ms. Robinson elaborated, “The audience is on the three sides of stage, which means the actors will be very close to the audience at all times.”
Attendees of You Can’t Take It with You, such as Sinclair Seeligson ’18, appreciated the proximity to the actors which the black box provides. “It was very clear that everyone studied every aspect of their respective characters, and that really showed even when their character wasn’t speaking. Every actor was acting to their best at all times, even if they were just in the background not doing anything,” Seeligson said.
Peter Everett ’19, who played the part of Martin “Grandpa” Vanderhof, said, “We started rehearsing about 7 weeks ago, and once we learned our lines, we had to add the emotional texture, some movement, and some life to them.” Everett added, “The performances were great. You definitely feel the presence [of the audience] the first few times… but once you get those first three lines out, you’re doing what you’ve been practicing for the past two months, and it’s really great just playing off of your fellow actors on stage.”
Behind the scenes, numerous other students worked to not only build the set, but also help with costumes and all aspects of backstage work.
“[The tech team] talked a lot about design, light, and sound, and I felt like my input was needed and that I had something to do with this play even though I didn’t want to be an actor,” said Angela Osei-Ampadu ’21, a member of the tech team. She continued, “The set really did an amazing job of enhancing the story that was already being told and further giving the audience information about this family.”
Many adults worked alongside the students on set design, costume design, and direction.
Ms. Hynds said, “I like to direct shows that offer opportunities for students at all different levels of experience. I need to meet the needs of my experienced actors and I need to meet the needs of all the students who have had the courage to audition.” She continued, “[You Can’t Take It With You] is something a little bit lighter and I just felt that we needed to kick the year off with something funnier.”
Commenting on her favorite part of the show, Ms. Hynds said, “There are several moments in the play where the majority of actors are sitting around a table — they’ve all got their arms linked over or they’re cuddling each other or sitting on each others laps and it’s really a warm, family feeling and that is absolutely real. Each of those kids in that scene cares deeply about each other. So my favorite part of this production is how close this company has become. There are 22 actors on stage, and they’re a really tight group and that was the most gratifying thing about this show.”