Category Archives: Shelby Pennington

Students Participate in Nation-Wide Walkouts

Photos by Shelby Pennington

The latest production, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, showcases choir and theatre talent

By Abby Chovan and Hannah Tarr

Photo by Shelby Pennington

The faint ringing of bells echo off a darkened set, only starting to light as a collection of voices begin to sing out from their places on the stage. As more lighting and layers of song are added, an eruption of emotion and music paints the scene for FC’s third and final musical for the year, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Ensemble members and leading actors work together with the A Capella choir and technical students to tell a story unlike one they have ever told. This tale shows contrast against the previous musical, the upbeat Newsies, by taking a turn down a darker-yet-still-as-captivating path.

Audiences who attended any of the performances, which premiered Feb. 9, witnessed months of hard work that started immediately after the close of the show beforehand. Actors, new and seasoned alike, spent the better part of winter break focused on the show, due to the quick turnaround that would follow coming back to school.

“We tried to knock out the basics before break and keep everyone on task with memorization so when we came back, we’d be ready to jump into rehearsals,” said theatre director Robbie Steiner.  

For actors, it was a neck-breaking whip around from the relaxing atmosphere of the holidays to having rehearsals almost every day and spending countless hours on character development.

“Oh, it was the hardest thing ever. Being in a show like Newsies that was so happy and energetic is so different, and when you think of my previous character, Romeo, you don’t think of Frollo,” said junior Noah Hankins, who plays Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame. Frollo is the most powerful cleric in Paris, as well as the uncle and caretaker of the Hunchback, Quasimodo. “Getting out of the New York accent and cocky attitude and into the demented and older character was odd. Romeo had huge stage presence very easily and I had to learn how to give Frollo that presence.”

Starting the process early was especially important due to the sudden shift in technical directors. For the spring semester, college senior and new teacher Sophia Bierman stepped up to tackle the role. Senior Mitchell Lewis, in addition to playing the titular hunchback Quasimodo, took on some director roles of his own in hopes to help improve the show and learn how to be a director. As co-director, Lewis helped Steiner block scenes and call the shots on design decisions. He also ran rehearsals when Steiner was absent for any reason.

Lewis said that his time as co-director taught him time management and how to lead an ensemble, as well as how difficult it is to create and work through blocking complex scenes. He is thankful for the opportunity to co direct Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is his final show at FC.

“The process has been rewarding because it’s enlightened me on how to lead a group,” said Lewis. “It’s been rewarding because this story is just really good, and this is the last show of my high school career. So it’s kind of like my swan song.”

Actors faced not only the pressure of the time crunch and the technical transition, but also had to confront their own feelings. With such an emotional show at task, a lot of draining and taxing work went into perfecting the performance.

“Acting wise, this show is really challenging emotionally. I’ve always been accepting of others and judged others not by how they look but by their personality. Frollo is the opposite of me, so it’s hard to put myself in his shoes,” said Hankins.

Junior Jesse Johnson said that he faced similar difficulties in his role of Phoebus de Martin, hotshot knight who falls for the gypsy Esmeralda.

“Phoebus is, like, in most ways polar opposite of me, because he’s like big huge strong knight guy, and I’m, like, not the tallest and I’m pretty skinny, I’m not super buff or anything. But I’m trying to just relate to certain things that I can connect to myself. And then work on the harder stuff by trying to connect it afterwards.”

While the show tests actors emotions and capability to perform difficult and problematic characters, it also tests singing abilities. Even though the actors are experienced in telling a story with their words, it is a new challenge for much of the A Capella choir.

“A Capella has to actually get into a story for once, like usually whenever we sing we only have to worry about one song, but now we have to worry about all these other songs and how they fit into a story. And now we have to be able to convey a message using them,” said junior Charlotte McFerran.

A certain strength is needed to push through all aspects of the show because, as most actors know, being vulnerable is not easy.

“The show has challenged me to be vulnerable onstage because the content of it is so real, and so you don’t get to be campy, you don’t get to joke around, you have to be honest and be yourself onstage- even though you’re playing somebody else you have to show your own emotions,” said junior Elizabeth Hallal, who plays Esmeralda.

Though the show is more gruesome than previous productions, it has brought a sense of community to its cast and taught the members to think more openly.

“I have learned a lot about community. Because even though, you know, I’m not in the ensemble for this show, the show is an ensemble show. So even the leads are as much of the ensemble as everyone else. And you just have to rely on each other for everything you do and work together and figure out things on your own and that’s just been a good experience,” said Hallal.

In the past, the bond that exists in this cast has not always been there. In a group of so many students, it is easy to fall into a routine of cliques. Towards the beginning of this process, the cast made a promise to stick together and grow instead of break each other down. Lewis wrote down on a sheet of poster paper that he hung on Steiner’s office door the mission statement that the cast invented: “We are doing this show because we want to become united in our acceptance of ourselves and those around us.” The cast has taken living out that mission statement to heart.

“Since this show is smaller, about 24 people, we’ve become a family unit. There has been a lot of cooperation on stage. I found myself working with a lot of actors on stage to find the best way to work together on stage. I’ve seen a lot of friendships building. Our goal was overall to unite and accept, and that’s what we’ve done as a cast. At the end of the show, there is a moment where everyone accepts Quasimodo, and I think it’s a beautiful moment because it’s what a perfect world would look like. We get to live in that perfect world for a moment, and it’s beautiful,” said Hankins.  

Many of the cast members find that, despite the novel it is based off of was written in 1831, a lot of the topics discussed can be related to modern day events.

“I think that this story is just so relevant to times today because people are made monsters because of one thing or another,” said Lewis.

But this show teaches the audience that we are headed in the right direction. Even the past 100 years has shown that acceptance is on the rise and that the world is changing.

“The song ‘Someday’ is about, you know, one day, all of this will be different, there will be acceptance and love in the world. And I think it’s just the perfect time to tell it, because of what’s going on right now and [because] these are problems that we still deal with. We’re the future, our generation is the future of this country and this world, and it’s our job to make these changes,” said Hallal.

Despite this show being put on by only high schoolers, it can incite real change in the world. That change can start on a small scale, as little as one person.

”What I’ve taken away is just like accept people for what they are because you might not even know what they’re going through before you judge them. Like give somebody a chance,” said Johnson.

Hallal and Lewis’ characters draw inspiration from hope that Lewis thinks everyone can learn from.

“The neverending, tenacious hope, that no matter how awful things are, and even if you know things are going to turn out not good, like there’s still hope,” said Lewis.

Hankins is thankful to be able to learn from this show and share its lesson with the world, in the hopes of making change and approaching that “Someday.”

“In a world that’s filled with hatred, we get to a show that reflects that but also turns into acceptance and unification and as students living in that world, it’s good to be in that world for a moment and apply it to our lives,” said Hankins.

Column: Throwing airplanes and frisbees: — how Patrick Jump taught me to be a better person

By Hannah Tarr

Photo by Shelby Pennington

On the first day of school last year, Patrick Jump taught my class how to make paper airplanes.

Now, as he nears his last day of teaching, I realize that he has taught me so much more.

That hot July day, he gave the 25 of us two sheets of printer paper. “We’re going to make paper airplanes today!” he said. We all laughed at this silly distraction until he shouted, “YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS!” We screamed in panic.

Our tossed together planes were disasters, fluttering to the ground upon takeoff. Jump asked us to reflect upon our process.

“I don’t know how to make a paper airplane,” I muttered.

“Yeah, and there wasn’t enough time to make one!” someone else pointed out.

“Those are both the points exactly,” said Jump. He opened on the projector a simple diagram of instructions for making a paper airplane. “This time, you’ll have a minute,” he said, and we calmly began. These aircraft glided with grace, slicing through the air for yards before making a soft landing. We were all proud of our accomplishments.

Next came the teachable moment, in typical Jump fashion. He held up a mangled mess in one hand, and aerodynamic art in the other.

“Which is better?” he asked, and the class agreed upon the latter.

“But which is easier to make? Which would you make if you were under pressure?” Shamefully, we pointed at the first airplane. “Right, but this one is useless. You have to go back and make this one again. If you build a number two airplane in the first place, you’ll save time, effort, resources….”

He threw the airplane, and we watched as it soared. “Build number two airplanes. Problem solve number two airplanes. Try your best to do everything you do right the first time.”

I took that to heart. To this day, when I encounter any task or challenge, I ask myself, “What is the number two airplane approach to this?” This quick check has made my life easier, just as Jump said it would.

I am a totally different person than I was when I first joined tech, or even than who I was last year, and I have no doubt that that is in part due to the efforts of Jump. At the beginning of freshman year, I was shy and reserved. I never thought I would be able to be a leader, or even want to. I silently made it through the first nine weeks.

Until fall break, when I brought my friend to a work session for 42nd Street. She had never built anything before. Jump challenged me to teach her how to keep pace with me. He set us to building 20-foot-long flats.

I taught her as best as I could by showing her each step in the process of building a flat as we approached it. Through hard work, we completed all of our flats that day. More importantly, we had a great time. My friend found she loved building, and I found I loved being a leader. Without the gentle nudge from Jump that day to independently be a leader, I might never have found the confidence I needed to gradually become a leader in the program.

As I worked towards becoming a leader, Jump patiently challenged and assisted me to become the best that I could be. When I make a mistake, there is rarely punishment. Instead, Jump guides me to find ways to fix it, or teaches me how to do better in the future. He understands that the work that FC Theatre does is all educational, so the focus needs to be on education, not the final product. Finally, after messing up and learning from my mistakes and then messing up again, I finally understand this, too. I have learned from Jump to let mistakes go. I have learned to aim for betterment everyday rather than immediate perfection.

On the Thespian Leadership Retreat every year, Jump leads the lecture and discussion on leading by example, which is appropriate because he greatly embodies one of the lessons he teaches: “What we do is more important than what we say.” No matter how much Jump preaches any of his many morals, it is how he acts that sticks with me. I am slowly catching onto lessons that he could never teach in a classroom, and becoming a better technician by mirroring how he acts when faced with challenges. I have also learned from Jump lessons applicable to everyday life. When I see him react to a situation new to me, I unconsciously internalize it, and it’s there to call up next time I panic and ask myself, “What would Jump do?” To call him a role model feels cheesy, but that is what it is called when you think acting more like another person will bring you success in life. I honestly believe I am a better person because of what I have been able to learn from him.

I have learned about myself, too. He has opened my eyes to my many skills and weaknesses. He’s helped me realize my worth.

And Jump has been a great guy to know. He is a friend as much as a teacher.  

In the spring of my freshman year, my mom was late picking me up from a matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Everyone else had gone home, so I was sitting outside of the theatre hall when Jump locked the door and headed to his car. I thought he was going to leave. I checked my phone, sadly. Suddenly, a frisbee hit me in the face.

I looked up in shock. Jump was doubled over in laughter. I scrambled to my feet and chucked the disc back in his direction, but missed entirely.

“Do you know how to throw a frisbee?!” he teased.

I shook my head in shame.

So he taught me. He showed me how to put my index finger on the rim of the disc, how all of the motion was in the flick of the wrist, and all of the aim was in the follow through of your hand. To throw a frisbee was a methodical process, just like building a flat.

I found I was terrible at frisbee. I apologized, but Jump was sympathetic.

“You’ll get better. You have three more years to go!” he promised.

As it turns out, I did not have three more years to learn frisbee from Jump. He announced over fall break this year that he will not be teaching here anymore. Starting in January, the theatre will have a new technical director. There is change coming. But I am confident that because of what Jump has taught me, and the person I have become because of him, I will be able to make it in this new world.

And in the future, as I grow up and leave for college and ultimately a career, the lessons I have learned from my time working with Jump will undoubtedly assist me in the lifelong journey to become a better person.

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ excites movie fans

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

A final group of people bustles into the already packed theater just as the lights go down, signaling the beginning of the film. People shift in their seats, turning off their phones as their focus now turns to the large screen before them.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off with a bang, paralleling its predecessor of Kingsman: The Secret Service by instantly throwing moviegoers into the heat of the action. Taron Egerton returns as “Eggsy,” one of the two latest recruits to join the Kingsman, a spy organization created with the intention of upholding peace without the use of the government. Mark Strong, who plays “Merlin,” also returns, bringing with him a good portion of the comedy that makes the Kingsman movies so popular. The much-anticipated Colin Firth also returns as Harry Hart despite the seemingly fatal gunshot through the eye in the last movie.

This particular movie centers itself around a group known as The Golden Circle led by Julianne Moore as Poppy, who is the head of a major drug organization that plans on making its practices legalized by any means necessary.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle delves further into characters of whom little was really known about. Harry’s past, in particular, is subject to more scrutiny than previously, and more of Merlin’s personality is revealed through his excursions with Eggsy.

New characters are also introduced in the storyline, including Channing Tatum’s ‘Tequila,’ Halle Berry’s ‘Ginger,’ and Pedro Pascal’s ‘Whiskey.’ These players still did not quite overshadow the original characters, but Ginger and Tequila especially had fairly large roles throughout the movie. Channing Tatum did not appear in the movie nearly as often as one may have expected based on the trailers, but his presence as Tequila still impacted the actions of many characters whether or not he was on the screen.

Kingsman continues its trope of fantastical spy technology, even including a bionic arm that looks straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This comes as no surprise, though it did often lead to several easy wins that would never be possible without their presence. That being said, it did not hinder the movie: there are many battles that could not be solved by a nicely timed container of goop, and multiple resounding losses are faced.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has been popular since its release on Sept. 22, possibly signaling the rise in popularity of movies that include a combination of action, adventure, and comedy. This movie blended all these genres together seamlessly, occasionally hardening back to The Secret Service in parody.

As with the first film, this movie was clever. Just like in The Secret Service where the “world ending” plot was radical though had its fair amount of reason and logic behind it, The Golden Circle has characters doing bad things for what they believe to be just reasons. While some aspects were more outlandish than others, with one of the main antagonists even bringing about some Hannibal-istic concepts, most of it was in no way entirely unheard of.

This movie does not appear to signal the end of the series: the tail end teases another sequel that may allow Kingsman to continue.

While this movie is certainly rated R for a reason, with its language, violence, and sensual content nobody can rightfully argue, it is certainly something worth seeing for the more mature audiences.

Pep rally excites students for tonight’s homecoming game

Photos by Shelby Pennington