By: Jo Lee
Let me set the scene: the year was 2017, I was in 8th grade, and the autumn season had just freshly sauntered in to end a summer of staring at a screen every day. I was doing what normal 8th graders do: eating, breathing, sleeping, studying, scrambling for any idea of what high school I’d go to – the lot. Knowing a few alumni families and some current students, my mom had been suggesting Villanova for a while. I hadn’t really responded with an open mind. I figured I was still a baby and had ten months to think about this kind of stuff, so I wasn’t really particularly eager to look for an high schools, let alone those that sent my friends to bed at one in the morning because of the challenging curriculum!
Thankfully, I had a change of mindset when I found out that Villanova had a theatre program, something which my elementary and middle schools were both lacking. I remember instantly being hooked and resolving to get accepted, at least just for the chance to do theatre in high school.
Fast-forward a year later: I’m now a freshman at Villanova, and I’m in the fall play, which is titled “Ax of Murder.” Dreams really do come true. The experience itself has been so positive. In rehearsals, I’ve found that the barriers and stigmas that might exist between grade levels ––for example, upperclassmen not liking freshmen solely because they’re younger–– completely melt away. If somebody cracks a bad joke between running scenes (and yes, there have been many moments like this!), all are allowed to laugh, and, before you know it, students of different grade levels are talking with each other about a common subject and demonstrating what unity means, something which any other circumstances might not necessarily allow. Standing on stage, interacting with my castmates, and watching each person take their own little pieces of ownership of the show, simultaneously contributing to a goal of tapping into its full potential, has been such a great experience.
Not to forget Doc Hoff, our director! Her watching us on stage and guiding us with lines or suggestions about how to really bring unique life into a scene is an integral part of the fun of not only the show itself but also coming to the theatre to rehearse it every day. She has managed to combine students of various skill/experience levels and use our different strengths to the play’s advantage. I myself, being on the lower end of the experience spectrum and new to the Villanova thespian scene, especially appreciate how Doc Hoff manages to nurture the beauty already existing inside every single cast member, as well as inspiring us to grow and take risks.
A quotation by Telly Leung, one of my favorite contemporary Broadway actors, best summarizes how my first Villanova theatre experience has made me feel: “You’re part of something bigger than you – and that feels good, whether you’re an ensemble or starring in the show. One can’t exist without the other – and that’s what’s beautiful about it.”