Black box theater creates bright opportunities

Innovative space changes experience for actors and audience

Molly George

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“Whatever they can dream within the confines of four walls, they can make happen,” said Katie Seigenthaler, mother of Mary Catherine Hayes, one of the two girls to whom the new black box theater was dedicated.

The Hayes-McCausland is a black box theater due to the rectangular structure and black floor, walls, and ceiling.

A black box theater makes possible a range of stage setups due to the risers, lighting positions, speaker locations, curtain tracks, backstage areas, which are typically fixed in a traditional auditorium.

Speech and Theater Department Chair Nina Lynn emphasized the value of students, who are a part of both cast and crew, having access to such a performance space. In fact, the black box theater is a popular resource in college theater programs.

Throughout a school day, 150 to 200 people come through the theater, according to Lynn. Classes will be held there 7 periods a day. There are rehearsals and performances held there after school and on weekends.
“Every audience member is getting something out of the black box,” said Lynn. “The audience is a part of the process of telling stories. We need someone to tell that story to and with.”

Senior Will Kerpan, who is involved in the technology behind the scenes, said, “It’s an immersive experience for the audience.”

Many theater students expressed that they are excited to use the new theater. “I’m really looking forward to working in a different type of space. The black box will give actors the opportunity to explore,” said sophomore Isabel Robert.

Technical theater director and designer David Ferguson explained the valuable learning opportunities that the new theater creates.

“To approach a play from different perspectives is helpful in learning. When the actors, technicians, and audience have to think about things differently, it engages them,” said Ferguson.

“I’m excited about the flexibility of the black box. Directors have a lot of creative freedom when they are putting together a show,” said senior Alexia Raucci.

The first show performed in the black box theater, “Wolves,” took place Dec. 14 to 16. The show sold out all four showings. “Wolves” told the story of a girls’ soccer team, and the theater was arranged to resemble a stadium.

At the Hayes-McCausland Dedication Performance, “it was clear to everyone in the room that the space would forever be a celebration of the lives of Sarah and MC. They will always be an important presence in NT Theater,” said Gracie Nayman.

Andy and Sandy McCausland, Sarah McCausland’s parents, expressed the significance of the construction of the theater. “We hope that it will be a place where others will be able to demonstrate their talents.”

Junior Laura Stone, who performed in the first show in the black box, said the theater “offers opportunities for students to learn to perform in all types of venues, which is something not all high schoolers get to experience.”

Seigenthaler emphasized that “the theater heightens the capacity of New Trier students. That’s what New Trier really offers, every opportunity for students to pursue their passions, and that’s what this theatre aspires to do.”

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