Charlotte's Web: Panther Playhouse

Art is never stagnant and never still. Maybe it’s a painting that you wish that you could just step into and be a part of, or a book that you are so engrossed in that you feel yourself becoming immersed in the universe. However, actually getting the opportunity to step into these works is not something that very many people feel they are able to do. After all, how could you step into a world that does not exist?

Above: An over-the-shoulder view of a cast member's script during the initial read through for Beauty and the Beast on January 13, 2022.

Though the most obvious answer might seem like it’s visiting a theme park, such as Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Hollywood (Harry Potter), or Galaxy’s Edge at DisneyLand (Star Wars), there is another cheaper way. Theater allows a person to immerse themselves in art as almost no other medium does. This claim might seem trivial to many, after all, the most obvious ‘art’ involved in theater is the acting itself. However, there are so many other things that go into putting on theatrical productions- the sound and lighting crew, the make-up and hair crew, stagehands, set designers, the list goes on, seemingly for eternity.

What’s it like stepping into this cacophony from the outside? That’s the question that the Red and Blue’s new series, Charlotte’s Web: Panther Playhouse, is trying to answer. Charlotte’s Web will take you behind the scenes of the preparations for Memorial’s upcoming production, Beauty and the Beast (playing March 25, 26, and 27), as you follow me, Charlotte Burks, currently a junior who has been involved in Memorial’s theater since freshman year, and Mande Puente, also a junior, who is currently participating in a theater production for the first time.

Above: Caroline Tashjian, standing, and Noah Greene, on floor, both stage hands in Abra Cadaver (2021), reenact an impromptu murder scene.

Everyone, in any kind of activity, stepped in from the outside at some point.

“I was nervous at first, but everyone was so nice and relatable it quickly felt like home,” said sophomore Noah Ueland. Noah played the lead role in the fall production, one-act play Abra Cadaver.

That feeling is far from alien to most drama kids at Memorial though.

“I’m nervous, have little idea what I’m doing, but I like yelling and singing, so I think it’ll be fine. Our first rehearsal was great,” said junior Giovanni Provenzano.

Provenzano will be playing the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.

“I can’t wait for people to see the final project [referring to Beauty and the Beast], and see the Panther Playhouse stronger than ever despite everything it’s been through with funding and the process it’s been to get it up and running again,” said junior Mande Puente.

Puente agreed to co-host this series partially because of how much she’s personally enjoyed the Memorial theater program thus far.

Above: Samuel Mendes, a Memorial junior who has participated in drama since freshman year, demonstrates proper falling-onto-the-couch technique while directing actors in Abra Cadaver.

On a personal level, the Panther Playhouse has been a home away from home since I began attending Memorial as a freshman. Rehearsals can be exhausting, but you experience all of that with such an amazing, supportive community around you that it makes time fly. Additionally, stepping into and becoming a part of the beautiful works of art that each semester’s productions are is an honor. Theater, in all its chaos, is a beautiful, safe space where individuals feel empowered to be their best selves.

Regardless of how many words I type out though, or how convincing I try to be, reading about an experience will only do so much. We hope that you’ll *be our guest* as we attempt to capture on film the experience that it is to participate in one of Memorial’s theater productions, especially Beauty and the Beast!


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