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The Student News Site of Darien High School


The Student News Site of Darien High School


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The Birthplace for Aspiring Playwrights and Directors: Student Productions

Students can get playwriting, directing, casting, costuming, lighting, and more theatrical experience in Theatre 308’s annual Student Productions
Sophomore Molly Shields
Sophomores Lily Grace Maher, Fiona Collins, and Cassy Medrano in “La Mouche” written by Stephen Bittrich and directed by a member of the Class of 2023, Ellie Best

It’s not often that high schoolers have the opportunity to be the writer, director, producer, costume designer, casting agent, and set designer of their own play. At Darien High School, however, students can take on every single one of those roles once a year during Theatre 308’s Student Productions. “Student Productions” occurs annually in the spring, with the two scheduled performances usually happening at the end of May. Many students at DHS are aware of Theatre 308’s Fall Drama and Spring Musical, but very few know about—the very special and wildly underrated—Student Productions. 

Student Productions, or Student Pros, is a festival of one-act plays that are entirely student-run. All plays are required to be fifteen minutes or less, and there are typically around five shows included in the festival. Students have the chance to write and direct their own plays or direct a show that’s already been written by a professional. Upperclassmen typically fill the roles of directors. Directors hold very casual auditions and callbacks, and are able to put themselves in the shoes of a professional casting agent as they are tasked with casting their own shows with students. Prospective actors must come to auditions with a very short monologue prepared. Depending on the amount of actors who audition and the number of shows being directed, actors can be cast in multiple shows. Not only is this event a great opportunity for aspiring actors, playwrights, and directors to develop their skills, but it also offers the chance for students to get involved on the tech side of things. Student Productions allows students interested in learning more about theater tech, specifically lighting, to do so in a very low-pressure setting. 

Sophomores Savanna Buys and Milana Melnick, Juniors Alexei Grytsenko and Valentina Galvan, and Class of 2023 member Cole Deline perform in “The Joke of All Time,” written and directed by a member of the Class of 2023, Aidan McDonnell. (Sophomore Molly Shields)

Since Student Productions has such a low-stakes and easy-going environment, it often encourages students who have never had any experience in theater to try their hand at it. However, this event still tends to get the least amount of student participation of all the three main events that Theatre 308 puts on. This is due to the fact that much of the student body, other than Theatre 308 members who regularly attend meetings, either don’t know what the event is or don’t even know that it exists. They don’t know how special Student Pros can be, no matter what your involvement in it (writer, director, actor, techie) may be.

Senior Alexa Zaino has been involved in Student Productions in a couple of different ways. During an interview with her, Zaino said, “My sophomore year I was an actor in two productions, one of them was ‘Goodbye Sanity’ and the other one was ‘Pity the Fool.’ In my junior year, I was a co-director of a show that my friend wrote called ‘<3, Brad.’” When asked why she participated in Student Productions Zaino said, “I chose to participate in Student Productions my sophomore year because I had seen them when my older sister was in them her freshman and sophomore year and I knew that they were a lot of fun. Also, I had a bunch of older friends who were directors, so I wanted to be a part of their shows. And I also knew that it was a super flexible schedule so I was able to do [Student Pros] while being in a spring sport.” One of the aspects of Student Productions that draws participants in is the flexible schedule that comes with it. Student Pros allows for students to participate in other after-school activities like spring sports, something that the Drama and Musical don’t allow for. Zaino commented that she likes Student Pros because of how easy it is for upperclassmen to “become friends with the youngsters of 308.” Since upperclassmen are usually the ones directing, Student Pros gives them the opportunity of being able to become closer with people in the younger grades who they are directing. Zaino’s closing statement of the interview was the following: “I think that Student Pros is totally underrated at DHS and more students should get involved, even ones outside of Theatre 308.”

Junior Brendan McDonnell has acted in Student Productions for the past two years. When asked why he chose to participate in Student Pros, he said “I chose to be a part of Student Productions initially because, to be honest, I was a bit scared to audition for the big shows. The notion of having a part in a very short play directed by other students in the club eased a lot of the audition anxiety for me. I figured it was a welcoming, low-risk gateway into acting.” He also said that his experience with Student Pros was “extremely relaxed, stress-free, and overall enjoyable and fun, but also equally beneficial towards building [his] acting skills.” Being an actor in Student Productions means having to be directed by your peers. McDonnell said the following about his experience with student directors: “My student directors have always worked around my schedule when it comes to rehearsal planning, and they all put in just as much effort as the actors do to perfect the show. My directors worked extra hard to make the work enjoyable for me and fostered a positive environment for myself and the other actors.” McDonnell also commented on how Student Productions is different from the other productions that Theatre 308 puts on. McDonnell said, “I think the main difference between Student Productions and Theatre 308’s big shows is that Student Productions is very user-friendly, in a sense, for audience, actor, and director. It is easy for an audience member to pop in for a show and have some laughs and see many different stories in a short amount of time. For actors and directors, they get to see firsthand what makes theatre so delightful, working through the ups and downs of a production, but on a smaller, more manageable scale.”

Sophomore Molly Shields and Junior Grace Sandoval perform in “The Tower” written and directed by Class of 2023 member Sadie Leopold. (Sophomore Molly Shields)

Senior Connor Blenke got involved in the tech aspect of Student Productions this past year. The tech side of Student Productions is definitely distinct from the writing and directing side. When asked about his unique experience, Blenke said, “During the productions, I was controlling the lights and music. This was the first time I ever did lighting for anything bigger than a concert, so it was a good time for me to improve my lighting skills. Since I have worked a lot in music and sound for the past few years, the music was really just a more chill version of what I already do, which was nice as I often am doing sound under the heavy pressure of a major production.” Blenke had similar sentiments to McDonnell regarding the differences between Student Pros and the Drama/Musical. Blenke said, “While 308 is known for its big productions such as the drama and the musical, Student Pros bring a completely different energy to the club. I never know what to expect when Student Pros begin as the writers and directors often go in completely different directions. I also love that Student Pros give complete control to the students. This means that these shows have a completely different vibe from 308’s other events.” When asked if he would want to participate in Student Productions again, Blenke said, “I would like to do tech work on Student Productions this year once again because of how much fun it was last year to be able to see the rehearsals and have more control over the technical design work. However, I also hope that I am not the only one interested because I would love to help someone else learn more about sound and lighting so that there are more sound and lighting designers for future productions.” Any students interested in learning more about sound and lighting should definitely participate in this year’s Student Productions!

I got involved in Student Productions in my sophomore year of high school. I acted in a play titled “Pity the Fool” by D.M. Larson. This play was directed by two members of the Class of 2022, Samantha Bellingham and Riley O’Conner. I had an incredible time acting in that show. I got to have the time of my life with all of my friends in 308 while also, without even really realizing it, developing my acting skills. Up to that point, I had never acted in something other than a musical so I found it very fun—and a little nervewracking, but in the best way possible—to try my hand at something where I was only acting. Student Productions is all about exploring the world of theater, trying new things, and learning more about whatever sector of theater you are interested in without the pressure of being on the main stage performing in front of 1300 people. Instead, you perform in the Little Theater in front of an audience of 80 people. Even with my lack of experience in acting, I felt comfortable performing those two nights because of that decreased pressure. 

Sophomores Olivia Creamer-Cefalo and Hugh Winegar perform in “<3, Brad” written by Senior Mallory Sloan and directed by Seniors Mallory Sloan, Alexa Zaino, and Katie Koslow. (Sophomore Molly Shields)

Last year, I wrote a play titled “<3, Brad” and co-directed it with my two friends (now seniors) Katie Koslow and Alexa Zaino. I love writing, theater, and movies so a big dream of mine has always been to be a screenwriter or playwright. Through Student Productions, I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of what a career in playwriting would be like. It was extraordinary to run through the whole process of writing a play, casting it, directing my actors, and watching it be performed in front of a crowd. “<3, Brad” was a comedic play, and the humor in it was largely directed towards people my age; because of that, I was very scared that none of the parents in the audience would get it. The most fulfilling part of my experience during Student Pros last year was hearing members of the audience, parents included, crack up at the jokes that I wrote. It felt amazing making them laugh. And it also felt amazing to have successfully cast and directed actors who delivered my jokes perfectly. I felt so accomplished.

Student Productions is an incredible event at DHS that more students should get involved in. Anyone who is remotely interested in writing, directing, or any other aspect of entertainment can develop their interests and get experience through Student Pros. Check out for updates on all theatrical productions and events at DHS. Be on the lookout for more information regarding Theatre 308’s Student Productions in April 2024!

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About the Contributor
Mallory Sloan
Mallory Sloan, Writer
Mallory is a senior who started writing for Neirad in the fall of 2023. She loves writing about literature, film, and the arts at DHS—specifically the theater arts. Along with being a writer, Mallory is the Vice President of Programming for Theatre 308. In her free time, she likes to read, listen to music, and watch movies. Her all-time favorite movie is La La Land.

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