Theater family: Students Connect Onstage

Andrea Melnik, Staff

A  bear, rabbit, piglet and donkey huddled around an owl who rattled on while everyone else drifted into sleep. However, the bear, lured by bees buzzing, wandered off to find honey.

The meeting was interrupted by a loud CRASH! Everyone scrambled away, but the piglet, struck with anxiety, hunched down on the ground and covered his head.

“I can’t – c-can’t move!”

The bear limped out from stage right, moaning.

“Is that you?” Piglet squeaked.

“Yes. At least, most of me seems to be here,” groaned Winnie the Pooh.

He explained that a little tree had fallen.

“That dreadful noise was a small tree falling over?” Piglet gaped.

Pooh clarified, “I was in the small tree.”

The auditorium filled with laughter.

The whole night, the audience lit up the atmosphere with their laughs as the actors went about their shenanigans. “Winnie the Pooh” by Kristin Sergel is a play based off of stories of the same name written by A.A. Milne. The play ran from May 12-14 in the PHS auditorium at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets sold for $7, with proceeds directly funding the theater department’s account to pay for the next show.

Director P.J. Sirl said he chose the play for its familiar tales, describing it as “comfortable.”

The plot involves the animals of 100 Acre Woods, who learn that a “ferocious monster” is coming to the forest and quickly arrange a meeting. The “monster” in question is actually Kanga (senior Abigail Swalling) who is bringing along her son Roo (Avrie Whitaker). Kanga is taking a bathtub, soap and a “bottle of poison,” as Owl (senior August Harvick) calls it.

The opening scene starts with Christopher Robin (senior Ben Ebner) asking a narrator (senior Blake Glenn-Reller) for a bedtime story. The story is about his bear Winnie the Pooh (senior Theodore Stone). Piglet (junior Jenny Nguyen) comes up and tries to tell Pooh about Kanga’s arrival but Pooh’s attention is entirely focused on the honey in the tree.

Sirl says that this year he chose light-hearted plays because restrictions had kept everyone out of theater last year and he didn’t want to choose stories with themes that went too deep.

“This specific show with these actors has been like putting on a nice pair of fuzzy pajamas and just snuggling up. You know what I mean? It’s nice. It’s just comfortable,” Sirl said. “I think that ‘Winnie the Pooh’ is about family. It’s about friendship. And that’s something that we have been craving as people the last couple of years.”

Junior Madison Hildreth, who plays the skunk in the ensemble, said that acting has made it easier for her to meet new people.

“Yeah, I’m a lot more social too. Talking to other people, making friends, that’s something that was really hard for a long time,” said Hildreth.

In past productions, Nguyen has had small ensemble roles, so when she learned she had gotten the role of Piglet, she felt excited.

“Ow, wow. I don’t know if words can actually explain it. I was really overjoyed and happy that I could get the opportunity to play Piglet… I definitely cried,” Nguyen said with a laugh.

Reflecting on what acting has brought into her life, Nguyen sees growth. Describing herself as a shy kid, she has learned to express more emotion throughout her acting journey.

“I think it’s made me value who I could be and what more I could do with myself and see things that I could do, but I don’t do on a regular basis,” Nguyen said.

Acting has also added to Hildreth’s life. Hildreth says that acting has taught them how to sympathize with others more. Being in theater has given them a community with the other actors.

“We bond together. I think we all fit together because we have a lot of those similar experiences. A lot of us have a lot of experiences with feeling out of place or feeling like we’re the odd one out,” Hildreth said.

Senior Danielle Poulin, playing a bunny in Rabbit’s family, says that being in the ensemble cast is a little different than being in a main role. In one of the scenes, she and the ensemble cast pester Rabbit then make a dramatic meltdown-style exit.

“With ensemble characters, you have to find a way to stand out and make your part, you know, something that’s noticeable, of course. But we do get our liberties as long as it’s not taking too much away from the main characters in the plot,” Poulin said.

Theater has brought the actors closer together. From the control booth towards the back of the auditorium, Sirl watched the cast gathered near the stage before rehearsal, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

“Well look at them all. I mean, they all love each other. It brings a better sense of understanding of self. It brings a better sense of who we are as human beings,” Sirl said. “We’re just, you know, theater people, we’re incredibly accepting. We love each other, and we take care of each other. And so it gives a sense of family. You’ll hear kids at the end of their senior year go, ‘I never felt like I belonged anywhere more than when I’m in this room.’”