Students lead the way in theater in Bechtold’s absence

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, theater department head John Bechtold announced that he would be on sabbatical for the first few months of the 2017-2018 school year, working in London with the immersive theater company Punchdrunk.

Without Mr. Bechtold, the student leaders would have to step up and take a more active role in leadership to run things.

Mr. Bechtold, however, seems quite confident in the ability of the theater to hold its own without him.

“Moments like this are opportunities for students, more than anything else,” he said.

“Because we already have a strong tradition in the Theater Company of student-directed work, this doesn’t feel all that unfamiliar, even if it will present some new challenges for us.”

Every year, the ARHS theater company has one student- produced play.

This year, due to Mr. Bechtold’s absence, student produced plays will happen a little differently.

“There are two student directed plays this year,” said Zack Ellis, student tech director.

“Louis [Triggs] is directing Henry IV this fall and Michayla [Robertson-Pine] is directing The Melancholy Play in the spring. We’ve only ever had one student directed as far as I know.”

The theater company is, according to numerous members, a close community of dedicated people.

“There’s a really great sense of community, especially among the real veterans, but anyone can come in and instantly be a part of the team with no questions asked,” said sound head Jack Tuthill.

Several members of the department said that many of their closest friends are people they have worked with in theater.

Another focus was a feeling of purpose, and working towards something greater.

“I like the sense of community and drive for productivity,” said lighting head Em Fuller. “This idea that we’re all working for something greater than ourselves.”

Students involved admit that there will end up being a period of adjustment to the student-run nature of the theater company, regardless of how capable people will be of adjusting to the new status quo.

“I think [it’s especially true] since most of the people in leadership positions now weren’t last year,” said prop master Sasha Zeidenberg. “We all kind of need to figure out how to do what we need to do when we need to do it, and that’s going to take a little time.”

Most, however, are fairly confident that the group will be fine without Mr. Bechtold for a semester.

Stage manager Aviva Weinbaum said, “I have no concerns about the theater company being student run. Mr. Bechtold has prepared us so well, and we are experienced and know what we are doing.”