In early December, Bosque School’s Mainstage Theater Company completed an entirely sold-out run of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Under the guidance of Bosque School’s drama director, Meghan Bode, and technical theater director, Doug Lowry, the cast and crew delivered a series of impressive performances that thoroughly entertained their audiences and left them eager for more. In a recent interview, Ms. Bode told us a little bit about what it takes to pull off such a successful production and what’s coming up next for Bosque School’s drama department.
Why did you choose The 39 Steps?
Ms. Bode: When choosing a show, I try to think about what shows we have done recently and do my best to have a contrast to them so that both our audiences and cast/crew can have the chance to try out lots of different kinds of theater. I also try to look for ensemble-based shows, in order to be able to include as many kids as want to participate. Finally, I also try to look at the group of theater artists we have in any given year, and try to pick something that will give them a chance to shine, while also stretching and challenging them. This year, it was definitely time for a comedy, and The 39 Steps was a great fit for our company. It had lots of fun, and zany humor, as well as a bunch of parts, and a message that we should all try and make the world a better one. It also was a parody of film noir, a genre that we studied in the film immersive last year. So the kids who participated in that as well as the Mainstage show were able to draw on what they learned in a previous class. It was all in all a great show for us to stage this year.
How involved are the students in the process of actually creating the show?
Ms. Bode: We try to have them as involved as possible. First, we had student lighting, prop, and set designers for this show, which meant that those students were responsible for making sure the show had what it needed in all of those tech capacities—quite a big job for a student! We also have student stage managers, who run the whole show once it opens. I also have conversations in the Thespian troupe about what types of shows the students are interested in doing and try to pick things that align at least partially with those interests.
What do you hope the students learned from participating in this production?
Ms. Bode: Obviously, we want the kids to learn the ins and outs of theatre (which is also why we encourage tech students to act occasionally, and vice versa). Our hope is that after going through our drama program, our kids could be on a professional set and start working in some area right away. But for me, the truth is that my biggest hope is that they truly learn how to operate as an ensemble—that they have a shared goal, take care of each other, solve problems together as they arise, and feel joy in participating in collaborative art.
As you built sets, rehearsed, etc., were there any surprises or bumps in the road?
Ms. Bode: That's par for the course in any show, really. We had lots of adjustments we had to make throughout our tech process, from adjusting Foley (live sound effects) to recasting sick performers the week of the show, to adding comedic bits to the show that were the results of accidents in rehearsal. That is why tech week is typically known as "hell week" in the theatre world— it is the time when all of the potential problems show themselves, and we figure out how to solve them.
What were some of the highlights of the process for you and the students?
Ms. Bode: It's so hard to pick just some. After the show, the whole thing kind of feels like a highlight. But seeing the older kids help new members of our company figure out what they are doing, having everyone be so sad the show is over on the final day of performances, and most of all seeing the entire company feel successful and proud of themselves and each other is probably the best part. After any given performance, the kids take their bows and go back to the green room before coming out to the lobby to greet the audience, and there is always a big excited scream when they get backstage together. You can't beat that.
What are the theater tech and drama departments up to next?
Ms. Bode: We're hard at work getting planning together for our spring musical, Les Miserables! Check us out in March!