Q&A with CAC Senior John Kennedy
You recently served as the dramaturg for the CAC Drama Department’s performance of The Diary of Anne Frank. What exactly did that entail?
In a play based off of realistic events, the dramaturg makes sure all the facts are portrayed correctly on stage. I looked through the script and translated anything that needed translating, and I researched any historical contexts or significant events, dates or places. Then, I informed the cast and crew so they could not only understand the gravity of the theatrical performance we were putting on but also understand their characters better.
After I did the research, we all sat down before rehearsal and I just kind of ran through some of the big facts. After that, if they ever had a question, or if they wanted to know how something was done, they would come ask me and I would address it just with them or with the group, depending on who it applied to.
In The Diary of Anne Frank, we needed to understand exactly what Hitler was doing and how the Nazis worked. Someone has to know all of those details – that’s what the dramaturg is there for.
That sounds like a really interesting job. How did you get assigned to this position?
I approached Mrs. Thomas wanting to either be a stage manager or the set designer. She had already somewhat designed the set, but I helped her out a little bit. We worked through a couple of problems together, I made a few suggestions and she made a couple of revisions.
After that, she asked me to be the dramaturg. They needed someone to help keep it historically accurate, and I have a huge passion for history (don’t tell Mrs. Noble), so I agreed to do it.
What were some of the most interesting and important facts you learned while researching? How did those discoveries influence the cast and overall production?
The Westerkerk bell is mentioned multiple times in the script, and most of the cast didn’t know what that was. I got to explain that it was a bell in the church directly across from the Anne Frank house. The families used the chimes to tell the time of day because their curtains were always closed and they could never go outside. Small facts like helped the cast realize how people functioned at the time.
I think the most important thing I had to relay was that, yes, horrible things were happening every day, but horrible things weren’t happening every day to the Frank family. For them, there would be a crisis, then a period of rest, then another crisis. There were times where it was okay for them to be happy. Three of the people in the Annex were children, and they were lighthearted because they didn’t necessarily understand the gravity of what was happening around them.
In addition to all of your backstage work, you spent some time on stage as well. What was that experience like?
The stage managers and I were blocking out parts for the Nazi officer characters without realizing that we would end up playing them.
It was actually really, really tough. It was funny for a little bit, but once the actors were more invested in their characters it got pretty serious. We were doing dress rehearsals, and whenever we were tearing them apart, they were so invested that we were actually physically tearing them apart. They had tears in their eyes. It became very, very hard for Greyson, Travis and me to be happy that we were going out on stage. We were the bad guys – and not just any bad guys – we were probably some of the worst humans on earth. Portraying that character was necessary for the play, but difficult to do.
The show wrapped last Monday, and the Drama Department is already gearing up for the spring production of High School Musical, for which you’re designing the set. Tell me a little bit about what you think that will be like.
This time Mrs. Thomas is kind of giving me the reigns a little. She’ll still be really involved, of course, because she’s been doing this for a lot longer than I have.
I already have a couple of concept sketches worked out. The difficult thing about High School Musical is that it’s a movie, and movies have the luxury of having as many sets as they want to. We have to find a way to make eight different scene changes on a not-very-large stage with very little moving parts. It’s presented a bit of a challenge, but I kind of enjoy it, especially with the field I’m trying to get in to. I’m really looking forward to it.