Let’s get the show on the road: all about the fall play


Jeannine Chiang

Cast member Lucas Keeley, as Mr. Salzella, rehearses a scene with Clo Papandongas, who plays Agnes Nitt, during a rehearsal for “Maskerade.”

Ruby Rosenquist, Staff Reporter

After weeks of preparation, Burlingame’s theater department is less than a month away from its opening performance of “Maskerade.” 

But first, let’s set the stage: based on the fantasy novel by British author Terry Pratchett, “Maskerade” tells the tale of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, two witches visiting the Ankh-Morpork Opera House in search of a young Agnes Nitt, who hopes to pursue a career in singing. Similarly to “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Maskerade” exists in an alternate universe filled with magic, energetic characters and a lively plot. 

“I think that ‘Maskerade’ plays with that fun, comedic side of death,” said junior and assistant stage manager Georgia Birchall. “Spoiler alert: it involves a murder mystery.”

The play mostly takes place in the aforementioned Ankh-Morpork Opera House, a large building haunted with ghosts. Suitably, performances open in the midst of spooky season, four days before Halloween.

Cindy Skelton, director and drama teacher, didn’t just choose “Maskerade” for the bloody storyline. The play also requires a large cast, allowing more students to participate.

“I spent five months reading different play scripts to find a good fit,” Skelton said. “One of the things that I am always looking for is a play that has more than nine characters.”

After a long audition process, Skelton recruited 21 actors and 19 crew members. With a grand total of 40 students, this is the largest cast that Skelton has ever put together. 

With such a big group of participants, Skelton and her drama students are as ambitious as ever. Each afternoon, they are hard at work transforming Pratchett’s magical world into a reality — and much of that responsibility falls to Birchall, who must ensure that everything behind the scenes runs smoothly. 

“It’s a big job, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Birchall. “The cast and crew really have to work together and get to know each other better.”

Essentially, Birchall is responsible for getting all the actors in the right places at the right times during the show. This involves constant practice, and for Birchall, that means working every day until 6:00 pm for nine weeks straight. Although the demanding schedule is exhausting for her and other drama students, they would never wish for anything different. 

“I think that if I didn’t like everyone there, I would get tired of it,” said senior Sawyer Fair, who plays lead character Granny Weatherwax.

Birchall and Fair agree that the theater community is very supportive of creativity and self-expression. That is one of the reasons why they continue to participate in the plays. 

“Every cast and crew member is so into it,” Fair said. “We all have so much fun and I think that you can tell on stage.”

Once rehearsals end and performances begin, Skelton retreats to the audience, handing her responsibilities over to the students. For the cast and crew, this moment is what makes the play complete.

“My favorite part of the play is seeing it transform from a bunch of people with scripts into a production with amazing costumes, interesting props and great acting,” Birchall said. 

Along with Birchall, Fair emphasizes that “Maskerade” is completely different from any other production that they have done.  

“You are in a theater and we are talking about a theater and the theater that we are talking about is the theater that we are in,” Fair said. “You would probably understand if you came to see the show.”

Fair even compares the play to football games. During performances, she said, support from the student body is essential to the cast’s success. So far, Burlingame students have never failed to show up to the theater. 

That’s the magic of drama: it attracts students from every corner of campus, regardless of their personal interests. Junior Olivia Fleming has never stepped on stage in her life, but she still goes to performances to see her fellow classmates in action.

“Overall, theater is fun and entertaining,” Fleming said. “Even if you are not involved in theater, you probably know someone on campus who is in the play that you should go support.”

Skelton hopes that students like Fleming realize that the drama community is open to anyone who is curious and willing to step out of their comfort zones. Burlingame’s theater students are a prime example of an innovative and caring group, she said.

“At the time when I was in college, my fellow [theater students] were still stabbing each other in the back,” Skelton said. “I knew that I wanted to teach at BHS because you have got fabulous high school students who really want to create good stuff and collaborate.”