The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

Behind the Curtains

The KHS theater program’s behind-the-scenes preparations for this year’s fall play, “Puffs”
Aarushi Kumar
The students watch the auditions for the fall play in the auditorium.

The students entered the auditorium, laughing and talking, as they picked up the scripts and schedules for the fall play. Experienced performers and new attendees alike excitedly leafed through the pages. Some of them stepped away from their groups to practice in peace and quiet, while others sat together to decide what role they wanted to audition for. Ten minutes later, the choir teacher and theater director Charles Linnell stood up to address the group, opening the floor for the first audition.

Kaelyn Castellano-Smith shows off the costumes for the KHS spring musical, “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Aarushi Kumar.

This year, the KHS theater program will perform the comedy play “Puffs,” with show dates set to Nov. 17 and 18. The Broadway stage play will be a retelling of the well-known Harry Potter series from the perspective of the Hufflepuffs. 

The program performs a fall drama and spring musical every year. With so many plays to choose from, Linnell tries “to find something that’s going to be enjoyable for both the students and for the audience.” 

Once the play is decided, then comes auditions and recruiting students for the cast and crew. For two days, Sept. 20 and 21, auditions are conducted in the auditorium and Linnell challenges the students to act out their chosen characters in different tones, voices, and accents. 

But the actors onstage are only one part of the production. Senior Nathan Shurts plays one of the main leads, and he describes the last week of rehearsals as “tech week” where “they bring in the sound people, the lighting people, the pit band, the stage crew, the sets; everything comes together at once including costumes. And you basically have all-day rehearsals for like 4 or 5 days where it’s like… after school till 8 p.m… And we’re just going to run the show over and over and see if anything clicks or doesn’t click, more importantly.”

The stage crew builds and designs the sets and props to be used in the production. While the actors perform during showtime, the stage crew is tasked with managing the curtains, placing the set pieces on the stage every scene, and making last-minute fixes; all in complete darkness. 

Ridhima Chauhan (left) and Sofia Villegas (right) do their auditions for the fall play. Photo by Aarushi Kumar.

Junior Aedan O’Connor is the stage manager for “Puffs” and he explains preparations for the play. “So we get to watch them [the actors] sing and dance, write down what’s going on, what we’re going to need to build, what we’re going to need to put where, and where the things are going to be placed onstage during the play.”

Depending on the script and the imagined style for the play or musical, the stage crew must work to create set pieces using wood from Home Depot, tools like power drills and screwdrivers borrowed from home or the school, and art supplies. In last year’s fall play, “Clue,” the stage crew had to design a set emulating a house with three elevations using the risers in the choir room.

Set design, lights, sound, and the acting and singing of the cast members all help create the immersive experience of a drama or musical, and costume design is another integral part of the immersion. Designing and outfitting the actors into their costumes are decisions made by senior Kaelyn Castellano-Smith, the costume designer and co-stage manager for the fall play. She says, “I try and go through every single character to see what their personalities are, and see what would more go with what the character itself would wear.” 

While buying clothes and designing outfits is enough, sometimes Castellano-Smith has to use her planning and sewing skills to make more complex costumes. “The Ursula costume [from the 2021 production of ‘The Little Mermaid’] was definitely the most difficult to make. The tentacles, one hundred percent the tentacles; that was really hard. We made the tentacles out of scrunchy aluminum pipe, and an elastic belt, and we covered it with a sock. That was some really difficult thing to figure out.”

Along the back of the auditorium are three windows where the sound booth is located. The KHS students in the sound booth manage the speakers, microphones, music, and lights onstage. Photo by Aarushi Kumar.

The theater program has created a tight group, with students returning every year. It’ll be their last for many of the seniors in the program, but Shurts says, “I get the sense that we’ve definitely gotten enough younger students that we’ve filled our ranks for when we graduate. And that’s nice to see too, it’s very reassuring.”

Behind every piece of work: every painting, every movie, every drama; there have been innumerable hours of work and dedication put into it that are unseen by the viewers. Be sure to support your fellow KHS classmates and watch “Puffs” on Nov. 17 and 18. Visit the school website for incoming ticket details here.

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