Published on November 3, 2021

School musicals and drama productions are always big energy, big fun and a big deal in our School. Hours of passion, rehearsal and commitment goes into staging the perfect production for audiences who have come to expect a fantastic show from our students and staff.

When the curtain closes on the final show, it’s a time for the cast and crew to celebrate and reflect on what the team has achieved; but, there is little time to rest on their laurels because behind the scenes, rumblings, ruminations and research into the next year’s production is already underway. We caught up with Head of Drama Jennifer White to find out more about what goes into choosing the perfect production.

How do you choose a HVGS production?

We throw ideas around at lunchtime – serendipitous moments, really. It is an organic process, sometimes driven by a particular group of students that gives us ideas. Other times a teacher has a vision for a show. The most important thing is that the team is excited to put the show on. We work too hard not to be passionate and enjoy the show we are creating with our students.

Believe it or not, we start chatting about the next show while the current show is being rehearsed!

We don’t tell students what the show is until a grand reveal. How hard is it to keep a secret from students?

It’s not hard to keep a secret, but it is hard to ignore the pleas of our students for a hint or privileged reveal.

“Unveiling the show is always fun, and we try to be creative in how we do so. Next year’s production is The Addams Family, and our big reveal had staff, students and parents really excited.”

Jennifer White

Some students go to extreme lengths to find out more. One dedicated student printed off a list of 100 musicals and made notes on each one analysing its likelihood of being performed. Ironically, The Addams Family wasn’t even on that list.

Students’ analysis of the upcoming HVGS production

What do you look for when selecting a school production?

Fun. Joy. Community. We need a big cast and a big chorus with lots of creative involvement. We also need lots of roles for everyone, and of course, something that will entertain our audience. We like taking our School by surprise and announcing the unexpected. We try to vary the type or style of production regularly.

How long does it take to bring a production to the stage?

It generally takes nine months from announcement to opening night; however, the staff (particularly the director) start quietly brainstorming and researching even before that so that we can make the right decision for the School community.

Who should be involved in productions?

I think everyone should do a school production at least once before they leave school – it’s a unique and very community-based experience, and you don’t have to be a performer to contribute.

Are there any interesting behind-the-scene tidbits you can tell us about the productions we have staged in the past?

In general, we have approximately 50 students on stage for most productions and a student crew of 20-30 behind the scenes. Staff from all faculties provide excellent leadership and support for the students. People may not know that it is our philosophy that students lead the productions as much as possible. They are involved in design, choreography and directing. It’s something that we are very proud of.

“Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the first time we are all on stage together may be opening night! Everyone is so busy that it is very rare to have everyone at each rehearsal.”

Jennifer White

Not being together more regularly can cause some stress, and we all work hard to avoid it. Yet, doesn’t it speak so highly of our busy students and how hard-working and talented the students are to pull it all together on the night?

Of course, there are many funny stories of missteps and mishaps that occur during a performance. We always find a way to laugh about them, and some of them have gone down in ‘HVGS production legend.’

What are the legalities of bringing a show to the stage?

People may not be aware that sometimes we cannot secure the rights to a show – so we always need a plan B. The first time I asked for Grease (way back in 2012), we were knocked back! It can cost thousands of dollars to secure the rights to a show and, of course, thousands more to stage it.

Sometimes we are very restricted by licensing requirements that govern promotion and other aspects of the show, and sometimes we have free reign. It varies with the production.

Tell us about The Addams Family. What is in store for show-goers?

Oooooh… Well, it’s creepy, and it’s spooky and a little bit kooky, too! Seriously, isn’t it everyone’s dream to convert the Latter Hall into a haunted mansion?!?! It’s going to be a lot of fun.