Director Kim Saunders reveals the magic of Maskerade

In another one of our behind-the-scenes pieces, we get a sneak peak at Wilcox's Maskerade, a bit of fun from across the pond under the direction of Kim Saunders (also part of the Mystery Of Edwin Drood staff from last year).

Paul Sawyer: This is a totally new show to me, so it's probably new to a lot of people. Tell us about the world of Maskerade.
Kim Saunders: I first came across Terry Pratchett’s Discworld when I was searching for a show to direct here in 2006. I was looking for a show that allowed for a large ensemble cast. I found several of Mr. Pratchett’s novels had been adapted by Stephen Briggs for the stage and fell in love with one called Wyrd Sisters. This play borrowed from Mr. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” but with over the top humor that had me laughing from beginning to end. I am happy to come back to Discworld and bring Mr. Pratchett’s comic take on “Phantom of the Opera” to the stage. This show pokes fun at opera as well as the Broadway musical! While knowing a bit about Discworld, opera or musicals will help with some of the “in jokes” the characters and story stand on their own. As Sir. Pratchett says: There are no maps of Discworld!, You can't map a sense of humor. "He is author of more than 20 books . His style is something akin to what would happen if Monty Python redid Lord of the Rings for a group of highly educated people. Sort of. He's hard to describe."-Wikipedia-

PS: What has the process been like in getting this show up on it's feet? What is your vision for the show?
KS: When I did Wyrd Sisters we had just moved into our new performing arts center and were still exploring everything it could do! In order to utilize many of the lights, sound and other nifty things, I added the concept of poking fun at community theatre like: props falling apart, lights that went wrong, sound cues missed! I have continued that concept with this show and the silliness continues!

PS: You have been working with Wilcox High School for awhile now. What has it been like seeing your students mature and grow through the years? Any great success stories?
KS: Last year when I directed Midsummer, ala Steam punk. I was amazed at the amount of alumni who came back and wanted to help on the project! My heart swelled at how many students have continued in the arts and that I was a part of there finding their voice. That continues with this show. I have an assistant who has graduated from UC Davis working with me. 3 recent graduates of Wilcox are now in a Conservatory program and have been helping as well.  Add to that a mentor who has come back to help with lights and I feel very supported by these students, many who I can now call friends!

PS: It is a Friday night, and I have nothing to do. Tell me why I should go see a high school theatre production if I am not directly involved or connected to it.
KS: Several reasons:
1. The over the top humor and sheer silliness will make for a fun evening.
2. Terry Pratchett's works are not often brought to life on the stage especially in the United States, as he is a British author. 
3. To support this drama department and help keep the arts thriving in this community.

Well put.

Wilcox High School presents Maskerade
Mission City Center for the Performing Arts - Wilcox High School
3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara, CA, 95051
November 10, 17, 18, 19 @ 7pm
Tickets at the door: Students $6, General $10, Matinee $5


Videos for "A Day in the Life of a High School Theatre"‏

"You have no idea how many hours we put in."
"This job comes with an understanding that there will be a lot of overtime."
"You have to be a born multitasker."

Hey HS Theatre teachers! Ever wish the world knew the amount of time, energy, passion, dedication, talent, commitment and heart went into the work you, your students, and volunteers do? Ever wish you could show people the behind the scenes view of what it REALLY takes to make a theatre arts department operate? Here is your chance...

THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE SPOTLIGHT is now accepting submissions of videos which chronicle "A Day in the Life of a High School Theatre". We want to see:

-People working hard at their craft
-The power of collaboration between students
-The hours it takes to do what theatrical artisans do (teachers showing up at 7am for prep, leaving at 11pm after a performance, etc.)
-The kind of curriculum being taught in the classroom, on the stage, and in the booth
-The hard work happening at rehearsals
-The FUN and SPIRIT of doing theatre!

And now, the fine print about submissions:
-Submissions must be completed by December 1, 2011, but will be accepted as early as October 31, 2011. The sooner you submit, the sooner you get posted!
-To submit a video, please post it on YouTube and email the link to It will then be posted to
-Please keep running length between 90 and 150 seconds.
-Please include a beginning title screen which states 1) "A Day in the Life of (insert school's name) Theatre" AND 2) "Presented by The High School Theatre Spotlight"
-Please include brief production credits at the end.
-Don't sweat the production values too much, but make sure the video and audio are at least clear.
-Please, NO multiple submissions.
-Feel free to use music, visuals, etc.

Have fun, be creative, and show the world the kind of work you all do in YOUR departments! Get shooting!

Pirates Roar Ashore at Valley Christian

Dillon Mena as The Pirate King
The true test of any musical in its quest for popularity is staying-power. Can it remain relevant enough through the years that people will want to produce it, view it, and will still enjoy it? Unfortunately, some shows fall out of grace for one reason or another and begin to fade away from the stage. Shows like South Pacific and even Chess have seen a decline in productions, even with memorable songs and great casting possibilities. With that in mind, it is incredible to see a theatrical piece from 1879 which still manages to connect to an audience and remain fresh and humorous.

Digging into the tomes of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Valley Christian has unearthed sunken treasure with their production of The Pirates Of Penzance. Director Matthew DeMeritt is no stranger to the show, having mounted it before with a group of 8-15 year olds, “co-directing it with a certain young lady who would later become my wife”. DeMeritt’s familiarity with the piece showed with confident and fun staging, well developed characters, and fine-tuned comedic direction and execution by a dynamic and animated cast.

Leading the charge onto the beach from the first moment of the show is young Frederick (Eddie Barsoumian), a boy apprenticed to a band of pirates until his twenty-first birthday. Barsoumian’s voice is wonderful to be sure, but it was his patient and natural delivery of the stylized dialogue which really stood out. His words have meaning and were never idly thrown away, and the audience was with him in every beat. Moments between Barsoumian and past-her-prime ship-maid Ruth (Melina Rapazzini) were sheer delight with both actors showing mature patience in the midst of quick paced comedic moments. In fact, one of the greatest assets this production has is its mindful approach to comedy.

Comedy cannot be over thought, over prepared, or over emphasized, or else you will be left with self-insisting delivery which will just fall flat. The cast of Pirates is incredibly natural with its humor, letting the joke be what it will be and not pushing it too far. In the role of The Pirate King, Dillon Mena shows incredible chops for comedy, hitting the bulls-eye repeatedly with his timing and incredible range of facial takes. His character is delightfully cartoonish, but never strays past the fine line between entertaining and overdone. Matching him beat for beat is Daniel Krum as Major General Stanley, who aged exceptionally well into the role. Krum’s “orphan boy” delivery had the audience rolling in the aisles (in one case almost literally as I would swear I saw someone fall out of their seat in laughter). The dynamic between Mena and Krum is not to be missed.

Petersen and  Barsoumian
Aside from comedic prowess, the entire cast shows phenomenal vocal skill, showcasing the voices of Michael White as Samuel, Abby McLachlan as Edith and Alexis Garrett as Kate. White stands out for his lilting lyric baritone (hope to see more of him in larger roles), while McLachlan and Garrett are simply hilarious as the de-facto leaders of Major General Stanley’s daughters. But the true showcase vocal role of the show is that of Mabel, played by Danielle Petersen. There are very few words which can properly illustrate the talent of this performer. Pitch perfect, flawless tone, and the kind of power that does not need a microphone. I even mentioned to DeMeritt at intermission that if I wasn’t sure she was a high school student, he could have easily convinced me that she was on loan from a major opera house. And yet again, the vocal prowess was tied together with a strong sense of comic timing, not to mention impressive physical character work.

What really seals the deal for this production is the energy investment across the entire cast. It does not matter how much the entire company of actors is giving if one person is falling short. That does not happen here. From curtain up to curtain down, the entire cast is on full-blast, filling the house to the brim with everything they have. It is an incredible sight to see the audience latch on to their energy. Particularly noteworthy was the Monty Python-esque work of Sean Leone as the Sergeant of Police and his entire band of Policemen with their intensely physical staging which surely must be an endurance trial throughout the show.

The cast, crew, production team and faculty should be very proud of the work they have done. It is an ambitious show choice, but the talent, passion and energy is there to back it up. The sets, lighting and costumes were beautifully done, and two-man pit was tight and effective (if not a bit sterile being only a two-man pit). In the end, my only real gripe about what I saw in the Valley Christian theatre last night was the numerous cell-phone and camera incidents during the performance. When will people learn?! Thankfully, the spirit coming from the stage easily overshadowed any audience misbehavior which made for a fantastic performance, and a wonderful evening. Be sure to head over and see it sooner rather than later as seats will be hard to come by now that the word is out.

Valley Christian High School – The Pirate Of Penzance
October 13, 14, 15, 20, 22 @ 7:30PM
October 22 @ 2:00PM
Tickets - $15 adult/general. $13 students/seniors. $11 children
Tickets at the door, or at

Preparing For The Audition - A How To Guide

Most performers can speak volumes about the stress of an audition. Preparing songs/monologues, typing up and printing your resume, getting headshots, and the general stress of the audition call itself. Ever want to know what the director is thinking or what they are really looking for? Ever wonder what you should wear, how to pick the right audition piece or what to put on your resume? Take a look.

Preparing For The Audition
Posted on GoogleDocs

The Do's and Don'ts for High School Theatre Audiences

With Fall shows hitting stages soon, this repost is more applicable than ever. Being involved in HS theatre is not just about creating art, it is also about learning to be a proper appreciator of it as well.

DO arrive on time. Theaters do their best to start on time, so the least you can do is be there to experience the whole story. Getting there early allows you to sit, get settled, hear the preshow music, read the directors notes, and get into the world of the show. You will feel so much more into the piece that way.
DON'T waltz in twenty minutes late. If you have missed that much, just try and get your tickets exchanged for another night. You won't appreciate the piece nearly as much and will just be a distraction to audience members and performers as you enter during the show.

DO turn your cell phone completely off before curtain, and before coming back from intermission.
DON'T think that turning your cell phone just to "silent" or to a no-transmit or "airplane mode" is good enough. On silent, cellphones still emit and receive signals which greatly interfere with wireless microphone systems used by actors and technicians. Even if you turn off your signal, the bright light from your screen within a darkened theater is yet another major visual distraction for audience and actors alike. So, just turn it off.

DO buy DVD's or photo books of the production if you liked it and if they are for sale (hopefully through a special arrangement with the publishing company).
DON'T take photos, flash photos, or video of shows unless you are granted permission by the director/producer. First off, it is a violation of copyright laws as the producers pay royalties to put on the show. Second, flash photography is (again) distracting, and just plain dangerous. No one wants to see an actor get blinded and fall off the stage into the orchestra pit. And third, there is the combo no-no of cell phone video. That is the "bad audience member trifecta": cell phone + light up screen + illegal video.

DO stay for the whole performance!
DON'T walk out at intermission. You never know what is coming next! The second act is usually more story based since all the clumsy business of introducing the characters and setting up the story is taken care of in the first act. Plus, even if you know the story, you probably have no idea how it is staged, so don't walk out and miss all the cool stuff yet to happen. Also, you already paid for your ticket... you might as well see how it all comes out.

DO applaud, cheer, laugh, cry, and react in general. The amazing beauty of theatre is that it is live! No matter how amazing you think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two is, all of your screaming won't make Daniel Radcliffe give even more effort to impress you. Live actors feed off the audience. It is instant feedback into how the performance is going. If you love it, show it! Nothing weirder than not hearing applause after a song, especially if the performer actually did a good job. Remember, the live audience is part of theatre!
DON'T be an "inappropriate" audience member. For example: yelling out your friends name, talking during the performance, eating in the theater (especially if the food is "noisy" like chips), going "eww" if characters kiss (get over it), mocking the performance or doing anything that would generally result in a smack upside the back of your head by your sweet little grandma.

DO be appreciative of the insane amount of hours it takes to put up a high school theatrical production. Let's do the math. An actor spends an average of three hours a night, five nights a week, for at least eight weeks at rehearsal. Tack on another hour everyday for memorizing and running lines. Add another five hours to every night during tech week, plus at least thirty hours for costumes, makeup, hair, publicity, set building, painting, lighting, sound, sit-and-sing with the orchestra and so on and so forth. That is 276 hours of work, not counting auditions or callbacks. That is almost like a full time job on top of school work and everything else in life!

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