Backstage with “The Addams Family”

The Addams Family, directed by Rhea Ali and Veer Arya of Class of 2020, was presented on three nights from Nov. 21 to Nov. 23 as a culmination of several months of effort, earning a standing ovation on opening night.

A steady anxiety and apprehension grew in the play production members from the beginning of the semester as they prepared for the play six hours every week, extending to twenty hours on the last week – a week referred to as “Hell Week” amongst the actors. The drama students stayed at school until late at night on a regular school day, arriving back at their dormitories at ten or eleven o’clock at night.

“I’m really stressed out!” Ali said two hours before the opening night. Behind her, students in black hoodies labeled The Addams Family hurriedly ran through the hallways, working on last minute changes and carrying large props such as a table-sized paper-mache spider.

“I was really nervous,” Seoyoung Lee, Class of 2020 and one of the lead actresses, said. “I was nervous and scared, really scared; [acting] in front of people I know makes me feel judged.” Lee had challenged herself to make the play memorable, it being her last production in the school as a senior.

On the other hand, the drama students expressed excitement and satisfaction alongside this anxiety. “Pressure is what makes our show great,” Suryansh Singh, Class of 2021 and supporting actor, said.

Similarly, Ali claimed that the stress of the performance drives the cast to perform better. “It’s a cycle we talk about,” Ali said. “The energy of the audience fuels the energy of the actors, which then fuels the audience, and so on.”

As the director, Ali faced many difficulties in coordinating major scenes, especially the musical number “Full Disclosure”, the finale of Act One. “There are so many characters on the scene,” Ali said, “and each had their own tensions that needed expression non-verbally. It must have been extremely difficult for the actors.” The workload was the deciding factor behind Ali sharing the director role with Arya.

The talk around how challenging the show is looms over the production to the extent that the first-time assistant director Naman Agarwal, Class of 2021, felt underwhelmed at the end: “People warned me how bad Hell Week is, but it’s just really fun!”

The students’ effort paid off, with many in the audience hailing it as the best play production in years. “[In] contrast to the previous plays like Once on This Island,” Daniel Kim, Class of 2021, said, “everything was perfect [in the play]: the dance numbers were spectacular, the set is amazing, and the story is simple but intriguing.” The Addams Family was also the first time in three years that a stage-sized wooden set was built.

“There were these scenes we had worked so hard on because they weren’t happening [correctly],” Ali said, “and they nailed it on the opening night and I cried.”

The payoff of the performance and the challenges motivate the actors and stage crew to continue the play production every year. For some, The Addams Family marks their first play production in the school while for others, the play is their last in the school. “It’s a lot of pressure, but that’s what makes it fun.” Swastik Kundu, Class of 2021 and first-time stage manager, said.

“I think the play was amazing,” Lee said. “I don’t have any regrets to what I’ve done. It was a great end to my musical career in Woodstock.”

Victoria Lee, Class of 2020 and another lead actress, reminisced about previous plays, moving on, and graduating, mentioning Arya: “[The Addams Family] was Veer’s last play, and my Woodstock life had started with Veer in drama. He’s one of my closest friends and it was reminiscent of how it started.”

Time management concerns are common among drama students with the sheer effort and dedication demanded by the production. Half jokingly, Seoyoung, as the lead actress, claims it was a definite factor in lowering her grades. 

“But,” Seoyoung said, “drama gives you that community that you can’t get in a normal class.” Ali expressed that the drama production builds a family spirit. “It’s not just people with the same passion but people who deeply care about each other. They deeply love each other.”

The drama students conveyed that a family-like connection forms naturally between them throughout the semester. The play production offers opportunities to build confidence and new relationships. “Even if you’re an introvert or an extrovert,” Seoyoung said, “you can challenge yourself on and off stage. It never hurts to get out of your comfort zone.”

Mr. Curran Russell, drama teacher, compares the process to climbing a mountain: “not every moment is super duper fun. But when you get to the top, it’s an amazing feeling.”

The lead actresses, Seoyoung and Victoria, both wish that the drama production and its traditions continue in the future. As advice, Victoria warns future students of the importance of balancing the duality of drama – the exhausting challenges and anticipation of success.

“If you’re only acting for the performance night,” Victoria said, “know that it’ll be underwhelming or even anticlimactic. Enjoy the nitty gritty parts of every rehearsal: those are the times that remain with you. Live up to the fullest; give your full potential.”

“Drama is a big commitment, there’s nothing like it in school,” Mr. Russell said in closing. “But it’s in doing the difficult that brings people together.”

The lead actresses and directors of the play are all graduating from the school in the following year. They hope that students in the future join drama, make strong relationships, and build character as individuals.

Jinho Yoon is the A&E Editor for The Woodstocker

Edited by Archita Aggarwal

Photos by Mesa Tsurho

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