Eleventh grade AVPA Theatre and Film student Willa Meloth has been a sculptor her whole life.
“I spent hours and hours molding things out of clay when I was little,” she said. When asked why she chose theatre over visual arts and ceramics, she answered, “I like having structure. Theatre and Film give you structure to work from.”
Willa is one of more than 60 AVPA and Theatre Arts / CTE (Career Technical Pathway) students who are curating and creating props, fashioning and sewing costumes, designing scenery, building sets, hanging and focusing lights, and generating sound for CCHS’s fall production Lord of the Flies. These students make up the technical crew that creates the behind-the-scenes magic that it takes to pull off a complete theatrical production.
CCHS’s adaptation of Lord of the Flies, based on Nobel Prize–winning British author William Golding’s 1954 novel about a group of boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves, is set in WWIII in the year 2025. The students have survived a plane crash and pit savagery against civilization as they navigate their desire for instant gratification versus the order that rules and governance bring to society.
It is the job of the technical crew to give the actors a place and an appropriate setting in which to perform the play.
“Everything tells the story,” said CCHS and AVPA Technical Theatre Teacher Howard Behnken. “It’s not only the script and the actors,” he continued. “The scenery, props, lights, sound, costumes – they are all integral to telling a complete story and creating an enjoyable theatre experience for the audience.”
How does the backstage work come to life?
“First we read the script,” said Behnken. “Then the director gives us his vision of how he wants the play set. It’s our job to make that a reality.
“Our director Ken Sawyer decided to set the story in the future, with a more modern and industrial feel than the original play, which was set on a tropical island,” said Behnken. “From that vision, the students sketch, curate, build and paint. They hang and focus lights. They generate original sound and music that fits the setting. They scour thrift shops and closets for props and costumes. Whatever they can’t find, they must create from scratch, such as the severed pig head that Willa created (pictured above). She used a rubber pig mask and filled it with insulation foam, and then hand and spray painted it.”
With all of these practical skills that they acquire, many students pursue complementary careers such as lighting design, sound design, construction, fashion or product design. Student prop master Willa plans on pursuing production design after high school.
“I love theatre, but my talents don’t lie in acting or singing,” she said. “I’m a hands-on creator. I want to do production design as an actual career.”
CCHS’s CTE pathways and AVPA are paving the way for Willa and her classmates.
See how Lord of the Flies all comes together when the play is performed November 14-17 at the Robert Frost Auditorium.