NNHS students take center stage in children’s play

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Peter, played by senior Cole Phillips, fights off Fenris Ulf, played by senior Jack Zievers, in the play.

Rachael Woods, Staff Writer

Naperville North High School theater took the stage last weekend for the yearly performance of the children’s play. For three days and a total of six performances, the North Performing Arts Center was crowded with friends, family, cast, crew members and directors, all eager to experience the show. This year’s performance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was even more awaited than previous years.

The play, which was directed by NNHS seniors Claire Liu and Rachel Leibforth, included cast members from grades nine through twelve. The story is about four siblings who, after entering a magical wardrobe, find themselves in the mystical world of Narnia. They learn, through an ancient prophecy, that they are the key to stopping the evil White Witch. They team up with Aslan, a lion who’s king of the forest, and woodland creatures to put a stop to the witch’s reign.

After the complications of performing with the threat of COVID-19 last year, the cast was exhilarated to be back on stage. 

“I was just thrilled, especially when I heard we were doing a show as thoroughly magical as Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,” senior Mark Vanderwater, who played Aslan, said.

This feeling was also shared in the creative team behind the play. Maya Kosiarek, the producer, anticipated the emotions she would feel over this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the cast happy about it… everyone’s just so proud of themselves after they perform,” Kosiarek said.

Last year, theater at North looked very different than it did this weekend. For the first part of the school year, all theater productions were performed outside, with social distancing. Vanderwater commented on how weather complications made the shows difficult. 

“One of the big [limitations] we had, especially first semester, was that either we had no people in the audience, or we would be outside, so the fall show last year ended up being outside in the cold and the wind. We got rained on in the middle of the show, which was a sort of miserable time,” Vanderwater said.

This school year, the directing team and NNHS staff was able to stick to COVID guidelines while still performing like they would any other year. The cast was able to interact normally on stage with the added precaution of clear face masks. The masks quickly became a joke in the theater community due to their awkwardness. Although uncomfortable, the masks ensured that the production could be performed normally and that the audience could still see the expressions of the actors. 

“The thing about masks that was so hard to deal with is that the better you made them look by pulling on the strings, the more painful they were,” Vanderwater said.

Despite the precautions, actors remarked that the process as a whole did not feel very different from the past. Leibforth and Liu were pleased that their jobs were relatively the same as they would be without the pandemic.

“It’s the same as a normal production, so we’ve been able to be like ‘Hey, we want to have our cast be of 20 people,’ instead of it being restricted, especially last year to like ten [people],” Leibforth said.

An important part of the children’s show is that it is performed in front of a young audience. Usually, students from the Naperville elementary schools come to North to view the performance; this year, junior high students filled the seats. Performing in front of a younger audience is important to the cast of the play, and one of the aspects that is most looked forward to. Vanderwater shared his enthusiasm for the performance:

“It’s just so nice because there’s a sort of magic to it that we don’t always get with older audiences,” Vanderwater said.

Bringing the theater community back together was a source of shared excitement for the cast. After facing obstacles the previous year, Liu saw the magic that comes from taking the stage in front of an audience.  

“Getting to pass on some of the traditions that I know I have experienced as a freshman, and making sure that those traditions and experiences and games go through has been really rewarding,” Liu said.

Performing in front of the live audience was rewarding for the cast, but being together is what really counted. Junior Olivia Konstantelos expressed her appreciation for the cast.

“This show, we’ve all become like a huge family, we all joke around, and we have so much fun together. This is what our theater community is all about,” Konstantelos said.