Evolution of Yonkers

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Juniors Chester Shepard and Shane Miller put in a lot of time and work in preparing for their performances. (Photo by Lydia Beers)
"'Lost in Yonkers’ was heart-warming, yet heart wrenching,” said junior Alysha Miles. “I saw it twice and both times I enjoyed it; it took my breath away.” There is no doubt in the minds of those who watched the latest theater production that it is a touching show. But how does a show like “Lost in Yonkers” come about? How much work and effort went into it to make it a success? The process begins the previous academic year, when the Theatre Department brainstorms the next year’s season and sorts through scripts. When deciding upon the next season’s playbill, they consider the casting pool, the audience, the budget, and how the whole season will fit together practically and aesthetically. After going through a plethora of different shows, they finally decide on the ones they will be doing next season. The director then takes the script and spends time reading through it, creating a director’s concept. This concept, a compilation of images and quotes, gives the design team an idea of where they are going with the paly. In the case of “Lost in Yonkers”, by early summer, Director Richard Young had met with the design team to talk about the upcoming show. The design team, which consisted of the costume designer, sound designer, set designer, light designer, and makeup designer, took the overall concept and ran with it, planning how the play would look and feel. The next step of the show process was the casting and rehearsals. Auditions for Lost in Yonkers took place very shortly after students got back to school in August. Since the play was being performed in October, they needed to get started as quickly as possible. “All these actors are really good,” said Young. “The whole cast is very good, very creative. I love seeing their development.” With only five weeks of time before the show, rehearsals began in earnest, working up to a frantic pace in the last couple weeks. The actors did a lot of work to develop their characters, including researching what New York was like at the time of the play, what was going on throughout the world and how that affected life in Yonkers. The actors also took creative license in this process, digging deeper into the characters and giving them a background, filling in the blanks for events that may have happened in their life that made them who they were. The cast even met for a couple “family dinners,” during which they discussed their family on stage and figured out how they related to each other. “One of the biggest things I learned was to ask the questions ‘why,’” said junior Sabrina Hallock, who portrayed Grandma Kurnitz in the play. “And not just about characters in the play. It’s so easy to label people and put them on the shelf without exploring what is beneath, causing them to act the way they do. For Grandma’s character, I had to ask ‘why is she the way she is; what is it that brought her to this point’.” “The script is only 25% of what is a play,” said Young. He went on to explain that the acting and non-verbal communication do so much to bring a script to life. Rehearsal is the process of bringing the script to life. “You risk things in rehearsal to find out what works,” said Young. Rehearsal schedule is more demanding than many realize. It goes on for five nights a week, three hours a night, for five weeks. All this leads up to the last week before the show opens, affectionately called “Hell week” by cast and crew, in which all the last minute changes are being ironed out and everyone is running frantically about preparing for the first shows. However, by opening night, the cast and the crew were ready and eager to showcase their efforts. “The saddest thing about this play was that it went by too fast,” laments Young. “It is a great play; I really wanted to spend more time with it.”
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