THEATRE XAVIER’S MISSION
Theatre Xavier is an extracurricular organization which mounts at least two theatrical productions per school year, usually a drama or comedy in the fall and a musical in the spring. Some years see a third play mounted during January.
TX is organized per production, inviting new members to become involved. A core group of students exists, however, throughout their careers in high school. Girls from area schools opt to participate in TX productions in all areas of activity, on stage and off stage. We are thankful for the commitment of many young women from Ursuline, Mercy, St. Ursula, Colerain, Sycamore, Lakota West, Oak Hills, Seton, Mount Notre Dame, School for the Creative and Performing Arts, McAuley, Highlands and other area high schools. Students choose TX as their major extracurricular because of their love for theatre, the friendliness and openness of the community, and the crafting of ensemble skills.
Approximately 200 – 225 students participate per year, with 65% to 70% being male (depending on the number of shows and types of shows produced during the year).
Opportunities for gaining skill and knowledge in all areas of performing are foremost. Acting techniques are taught (by the director) in an active, hands on studio environment. Technical theatre – design, building, properties, lighting, and sound – is also mentored (by the technical director) and students spearhead work in these areas. Students head all of the technical and production areas during the preparation and run of productions. During performances, students manage the backstage, run the lights and sound, and operate as running crews. Additionally, student producers are instrumental in maintaining the solidarity of the program, artistically and practically (in ticketing and house managing, and advertising, for instance). Moreover, student directors work closely with the director in teaching technique, skill acquirement, and interpretation. Student technical crews are headed by experienced students who model and teach building skills, painting, crafting techniques in properties, and in artistic design (whether in building crew, lighting, or sound). Costuming trains students in sewing, design, patterning, building costumes, research, and interpretation. Similarly, makeup design is mentored and presented in studio situations so that students may create the needs for any show. Adult mentors and directors facilitate, model, and teach the students, so that productions develop in complimentary ways. Parent volunteers round us out in many supportive areas (mainly in feeding our cast and crews a hot meal during opening and closing weeks of the productions), assistance with sewing, parking during show nights, running concessions, helping with building, painting, and design. Collaborative effort is the signature of TX productions.
Beyond the learning and teaching, Theatre Xavier exists as a community within the greater St. Xavier High School community. We ascribe fully to our greater community’s standards of excellence in pursuit of knowledge, character development and spiritual growth, and giving to others. Our spiritual mentor is Fr. John Ferone, SJ. He presides at our masses and when we bless the stage. He joins us in our “circle’ during our show nights. His voice, loving presence, care, and insights sustain us in many ways during our productions.
Questions from Cincinnati Enquirer’s interview with Michele Mascari for the special interest story preceding the two night benefit last December, 2011, which raised money for an endowment to assist chosen students in Acting/Technical Theatre with tuition.
Q: What are the joys of high school theater?
MM: The kids. Always. The kids. A joy to work with so many talented and dedicated young men and women. Always a joy to witness their growth as performers, designers, carpenters, painters, directors, producers…so many areas. More than that, to see them gel; to see them “get it” – you know? They get that they have to give huge amounts of time and energy to their passion for theatre. They get that they are adding to themselves by being positive, collaborative, creative, and by taking risks. They get that they are never alone when working here. It’s an amazing journey for me each production and each year that goes by, being part of the kids’ and families’ lives in such positive ways. Families especially become part of the TX community. Working closely with family supporters and mentors enriches my life every step of the way.
Q: What do high school kids learn by participating in theater?
MM: Well…there’s practical stuff. Skill development in poise, confidence, and presentation. How to take “rejection” – not getting the lead, not being a crew head, not have a costume design accepted, and so on. They deal with those tiny “failures”. And we adults mentor them in that process. So many things, Jackie…you know them all! Collaboration is a big thing. Being part of an ensemble is a huge thing. Learning how to be “generous” on stage and off is something we all aspire to. They learn skills which will help them in their future – doesn’t matter whether they become CPA’s or carpenters. They learn how important it is to listen and observe. In acting, “move when there’s a reason to move; the last thing you do is speak.” To me, those are good axioms to follow throughout life. They learn about so many other people, locations, conflicts, loves, hates…they get to “walk in others’ shoes” so to speak, and that builds compassion and empathy. We need that in our lives.
Q: How do you choose your line up of titles?
MM: I ask kids for their input, suggestions, usually before the end of the school year for the up-coming year. I ask input from the other adult mentors in TX. TX is not an organized “drama club” with officers and committees. We have a core of vets in all areas who lead in those areas, and we organize and welcome new people for each production. So, I take some advice. I read a lot. I look at my “bench.” Have to do that. I aspire to take risks. I love to produce and direct obscure plays and musicals, or ones that are edgy and challenging. I love choosing shows that my kids may not see again (or participate in again), and that our St. Xavier community may not come across again. I hope to present plays and musicals which entertain, and others which teach and entertain, and others which demand that you sit up and pay attention while they entertain; shows with a distinct point of view, a mission, a passion. My stage and building crew and props crew love to design and build. So the more “epic”, the better for them! When we do a winter show, it will feature simplicity of stage. So, I consider shows that meet the needs of the kids.
Q: How many kids do you expect to have participating this year?
MM: Well, the numbers usually average out to around 200 to 225. It depends largely on the size of the musical. But, I imagine we will reach these numbers.
Q: What do people most need to understand about high school theater?
MM: One thing is to recognize and celebrate these young people who accept the grueling schedules, intensity of rehearsals, physical and emotional demands, time away from parents and friends, and the all-consuming nature of a theatrical production. If I may be cliché, theatre is as important to our kids as football is to the football team, or band is to the marching band, or golf is to the golf team…and on and on. Perhaps more importantly, recognize the developmental processes involved. From the affective to the cognitive, kids are exposed to a huge realm of knowledge in areas like history, culture, sociology, psychology, music, and so on. Theatre is a deepening experience, it “quickens” us, helps make us more deep and wide as thinkers and doers, no matter what our age. Beyond respecting young people for their efforts, it’s important to understand that theater groups work diligently towards a stellar production. We respect what people give to the experience, and – in the end – we “give ourselves away” – on stage and off. The actors MUST “give themselves away” to their audiences. That’s who they perform for, not for themselves. That’s who crews build and create for, not for themselves. And in preparing to give themselves away to their audiences, they give themselves away to each other each day they work together. Each night of our productions, we all think of the “gift” to the audience that we are offering up, humbly and respectfully. We talk about that gift, honor it, and release our energies to it. These are some of the things people could understand about High School theater.