Children’s Letters to God: Revolutionizing the Black Box

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From left; Rohan Rastogi, Paulina McGrath, Ally Noble, Renee Craig, Ryan Cole, Emily Brown, Braley Degenhardt , David Ran, Tia Ryder, Maimuna Amhad, Peter Fidrych

by Jenie Michael

Staff Writer

The Black Box, Room 109, is both a classroom and a theatre. Until now, WATA has only used the room for small cast dramatic shows. Senior Brianna Ryder is changing WATA history.

“On the first New York trip with WATA that I was eligible to go on, which was my freshman year, I had asked Mr. Towers if there had ever been a musical in the Black Box, and he said, ‘No, but you might see one in your four years.’ And now, I guess I am,” said Ryder, Director of the first Black Box musical, Children’s Letters to God.

The was a lot of excitement surrounding the idea of a musical in the black box. Many were surprised, excited, and even scared.

“When I found out that Brianna was officially directing a musical, I cried. I was very happy,” said sophomore Tia Ryder who is playing Joanna in the musical.

The show was originally cast in January of this year. The auditions did not require a musical performance, so that aspect had to be done first thing at callbacks.

“The auditions themselves were just like a regular Black Box, so the singing was only at callbacks. It was definitely different because I’d never sang in the Black Box before, formally, so it was really a new experience,” said sophomore Emily Brown who is playing the part of LMFR (Lotus, Meadow, Flower, Rainbow) in the show.

The cast has rehearsed from 2pm-9pm every day of the week before its opening, and by now, has had a good amount time to get used to the idea of a Black Box Musical. Opening night was Thursday, March 24.

“I [was] not nervous for singing in the Black Box, I [was] just nervous for the whole thing! But just the music aspect [didn’t] scare me,” said freshman Renee Craig who is playing the part of Alice.

As this is a musical, there are many more elements of the show that have to be controlled. For instance, the cast has to be able to act and sing, and there are instrumentals that have to be taken into account and space allocated on the stage.

The day before opening night, the director received the soundtrack to the original Broadway production, which they planned to use as instrumental accompaniment during the production. However, when the CD was played over the house speakers, it sounded ‘foggy’ as some cast members described it; that is, the sound was slightly distorted, and the voices seemed to be coming from a distance.

“It was devastating. A good number of us were on the brink of tears. While it may seem petty to those looking in from the outside, it did not seem so at the time. We had come this far, rehearsed this much, and then something as simple as background music could be such a huge detriment,” said freshman Tanvi Verma the Stage Manager of the production. “It was hard, but I’m sure we can push through it and still come out with a great show.”

After struggles to try to find a better alternative, Ryder decided that there would just be the actual soundtrack playing in the background, and the cast would have to work even harder to overpower the voices in the recording.

According to those in the audience on Thursday and Friday, the show was a success. Most of the viewers came out of the theatre exclaiming how ‘adorable’ and ‘hilarious’ the show was.

“I did notice some echoing in the background every once in a while, but it didn’t have too much of an impact on the show itself. Overall, it was really really good. Very funny and very cute,” said freshman Abby Crossely.

Children’s Letters to God will be performed again on Thursday, April 7th and Friday, April 8th at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets are $7 for students and $12 for adults.

“We’re making history right now, I don’t know if you realize that. This has never been done before, and it may never be done again. We’re going where no one else has dared to go,” said Ryder.