Directing the Show: Making a Splash

Matt York, Writer/Podcaster

“Now I may not have much, but I have more determination than any man you’re ever likely to meet.” These are wise words from Edward Bloom, the main character of the musical Big Fish. If you haven’t seen the movie, then you’re in luck. Our school, WSHS, is putting on a live theatrical production of Big Fish this Spring. Today, I sat down with the director and co-producer of the show and we discussed their experiences with theatre, the preparation for the upcoming show, as well as the future of the theatre program.

The main director of the Spring Musical, Mr. Viola, got into theatre when he was in sixth grade. “I got involved in sixth grade and high school as well as in and out of school on different community theatres,” he said. He went on to say how he continued this journey in theatre through his studies at Penn State where he got a Bachelor’s in the Arts and double majored in Secondary Education and English. He continued,“My first [teaching] job was at Rippon Middle School…and then I came here and I’ve been here for eight years.” Ms. Cooper, the co-producer of Big Fish, got started in theatre in elementary school. She thought back about her introduction into theatre, “My grandfather would always take me to see shows, so that’s how it came into my life.”

To them, theatre means pretty much the same thing: self expression. To Mr. Viola, “It’s the expression of human experience […] just put in to an art form.” And to Ms. Cooper, it’s understanding emotions and being able to present it to others; to tell the same story in a different way to a different audience.

However, when I asked them about why theatre often gets overlooked and receives less coverage than other sports, they had this to say: “I think it’s a part of American culture to celebrate sports […] I think it’s easier in the high school setting to celebrate sports because it’s all quantitative results. For instance, like we can get on the announcements or, you know, in the newspaper [and say],’Oh, you know, so-and-so beat so-and-so by 7 to 3.’ But in the arts […] it’s qualitative,” said Mr. Viola. Ms. Cooper seemed to agree by saying, “I think with sports there’s kind of this immediate gratification or recognition when it comes to, like, the games they play, you know. At the end of every single game, who won and who lost, then we can kind of look at that and honor our athletes in the ways that they have performed at those things, which is great […] But with theatre, we spend like 4 months preparing for a show and then you have 4 nights to kind of prove yourself and, because we’re not like competing against anybody but ourselves, it’s kind of hard to say, like, if there’s a winner in theatre.”

When asked about the future of theatre, both in and out of high school, they were both in agreement. “I’d love to see our program grow even more […] We’re getting more and more students that want to be involved in participating,” said Mr. Viola. “I would really just love to see our numbers continue to grow and just get better,” said Ms. Cooper, who then added, “I would really love to see theatre be more accessible to, like, the every-day person because not everybody can go to New York or to Broadway to see all of these fantastic shows…”

So it seems that, despite having different upbringings and different introductions into theatre, they both had similar thoughts on the same issues that surround theatre and running a high school theatre program. Please come out to watch and support their latest production, Big Fish, which is set to premiere this Spring on April 16, 17, 18, and 19. Tickets can be bought at the door. Concessions are available.