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Upper School Players take on Childhood Classics in Grimm’s Tales

Photo of a “Grimm Tales” performance from the Austin Ballet.

On Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, the Upper School Players presented the play Grimm’s Tales. The play comprised several classics from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, written by the Grimm brothers Jacob and Wilhelm. The collection of fairy tales performed included familiar names like Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin. Unlike most plays, Grimm’s Tales featured all 14 members of the cast on stage for the entire duration of the play, regardless of whether they were acting during the specific scene or not. 

“Our production concept was that [the cast] were all teenagers performing the Grimm’s Fairy Tales at an annual party as part of a longstanding tradition, so they were all always onstage” said Adam Koplan, director of the play.

Grimm’s Tales is classified as “Story Theater” and includes a combination of traditional storytelling while incorporating modern day techniques. The “Story Theater” method delivers narration in the past tense while enacting the story in the present.

“I especially like Story Theater in educational contexts like ours because it’s a great way to teach young people about theatrical conventions,” said Koplan.

For fresh faces, “Story Theater” helped them learn the ins and outs of performing and acting in character to acquire different acting techniques.

“We used a lot of theatrical conventions, so learning how to use props in different ways was definitely a learning curve,” said freshman Aleena Shash.

With new techniques to learn, many stories to perform, and upcoming show dates, the Upper School Players packed on a heavy time commitment. The cast maintained a consistent schedule for four weeks, rehearsing every day after school.

“[We need] at least 80 hours of rehearsal to be comfortable. But, we had about 62 hours of rehearsal time including techs and dress rehearsals, so it was a bit of a time crunch,” said Koplan. 

Through the 62 hours, the cast balanced learning their lines, perfecting their roles, and staying mindful of the interplaying stories.

“Rehearsals were intense, as it’s a play where everyone is on stage at all times, and you have to be focused even when you are not in the scene,” said senior Cici Jia. 

The time crunch also affected the crew working behind the scenes. Crucial to the success of the play, the backstage crew planned out costumes, devised and revised scripts, and watched the actors perform to ensure smooth runs. 

“I struggled with writing scripts, because with time constraints, I had to have scripts in at a certain time,” said sophomore Kirsten Liang.

Within the play, actors also embedded various dancing scenes. For experienced dancers like Jia, dance scenes and movement sequences passed with ease, though it served as a challenge for others. 

“It was hard for a lot of people because the music was really fast and the dance was fast, and most people didn’t have dance experience,” said Jia.

Nonetheless, the cast and crew worked cooperatively to pull off spectacular performances. The members of the cast bonded together whether it was in rehearsal or backstage helping each other out before the shows.

“It was an amazing, really small cast. I met a lot of [the cast] for the first time at the beginning of rehearsals, and ended up becoming close friends with them.” said freshman Aleena Shash. 

Grimm’s Tales was well-received by its viewers, with praise for the formatting of stories and actor performances.  

“I liked the framework that sets up the story. It shows the theater tradition of telling stories in a library really well,” said senior Mai Ideshita. 

For Koplan, who saw the effort put in the choreography and rehearsals, the performance component turned out satisfactory. 

“I was fond of our dancing and movement sequences,” said Koplan. “I’m very proud and grateful.”

The resounding sense of pride was shared among the cast. Along with feeling proud, however, Jia also felt some wistfulness. As one of the only seniors along with fellow cast member Leah Black-Holmes, it felt like the closing of an era.

“When we saw our set get taken down, it was really sad,” said Jia. “In the play we were also seniors that were leaving, so there was a really sentimental moment where we were saying goodbye to everyone.”

Edited by Helen Hong

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