The Future of Production

Anna Blake Patrick

OES is growing. We have a great new Lower School, weight room, Creative Center, and soon, a new gym facility that will enhance our sports and athletic experiences. As we continue to reshape the OES landscape, one idea full of possibility is a space geared for performing arts and production. To think about the benefits this space could provide, I interviewed four great individuals.

  1. What does the term “Performing Arts” encompass?

Peter Buonincontro: To me, it’s more of a general term of Production. I like broad strokes as a creator where a diverse set of skill sets can be combined in an interesting way. I have a problem with “Drama” as it sounds super negative, “Theater Arts” sounds like a tea cup, even “performing arts” sounds like something you say with a beret on. So to me “Production” is something that is created from a variety of inspiration.

  1. What is the importance of recognizing Production versus the specific name of Performing Arts?

Peter Buonincontro: “I am a big believer in the power of traditional performance and the benefits of a play, in terms of collaboration and putting a project together. In terms of a wider net of community by in us as to what those opportunities look like, whether you’re someone who wants to be on stage or you’re someone who’s interested in engineering or math or science or painting, calling something a “play” immediately gives people an image of what that they don’t see themselves in. Opening it up to a word like production allows people to understand that they have a place in it regardless of what their skillset is.

“At the end of the day, the real value of the performance is not in the ego that needs to be fed on stage, but in the act of a communal shared experience. That’s how performance actually began–it started very much about lessons, worship, morals, it was much more connected because of the spiritual need of a community rather than the entertainment need, so there is something pre-build into our minds that craves a community experience, which allows us to separate our conscious mind from a semi-conscious state of mind when we watch something. 

  1. How do students benefit from participating in production? More specifically, what skills are cultivated or what other talents can be developed?

Connor M., ’21: For me, the theatre community served not only as a group of friends but as a place where I could learn new skills that applied not only to shows but to other disciplines as well. Some of my best work ethic has come from working on shows, and my love for music production was cultivated when I learned about the sound hardware we use in shows. 

Emily Stone: Production is a social collaborative medium — even if you are making it up all alone, you’re still sharing it with an audience of other people in some form.  Collaboration, teamwork, experimentation, and refining your message to the audience are important skills. Public speaking (clarity of voice and poise/confidence in your body) and facing your fears. Production as a field is multi-disciplinary so students are able to exercise multiple intelligences (kinesthetic, spatial, musical, inter/intra personal) beyond narrow traditionally “academic” intelligences (word and number smarts).

  1. How do the performing arts fit in the OES Essential Competencies? How are they beneficial?

Emily Stone: Production is a great form through which someone can “show what they know” — yes, it’s a powerful medium in and of itself but I think can be integrated into academic learning.  Playing games, acting, using music or dance — these are all engaging ways to play, synthesize, reflect, collaborate, listen, connect, get curious.

Liam O., ’22: The performing arts (and theatre in particular) definitely help you harness your creativity and problem solving skills, especially if you’re in stagecraft, where we had to think of ways to have a certain display pop up, or how to give an effect of something magical happening. There’s also a huge element of collaboration in stagecraft and theatre when proposing ideas; you have to learn to let your idea go, or be ok with it drastically changing or just not working out in general. The end results are never really one person’s idea, but rather a mix of everyone’s input.

  1. I recently saw Mrs. Duden’s fifth grade class perform the play they created, Strangers at the Door. The play was wonderful, and while the stage area was beautifully constructed, the space in EC3 was quite small. What advantages would a Production Center give to Lower School students?

Connor M.: The EC3 space isn’t large, and one of the ideas was that it wouldn’t be a full stage, but rather a small black box theatre. A larger performance art space wouldn’t only serve theatre, it could be used for dance, music, and a variety of other specific school uses.

Liam O.: Having a bigger, more versatile area to perform in could really help not only set the scene, but get the actors more excited and more in character for their performances. It would also give them more space to experiment with more movement that may fit into the plot better than being confined to a smaller space.

  1. Who would have access to this Production Center, and when would it be used?

Liam O.: A stage would be very useful for a lot of people. Stage and screen, actors studio, English classes, and the fifth grade classes would all have places to rehearse and perform, without having to disrupt the daily space of the great hall. This would also be a good place for open mic night and trivia night in the dorms. It would also help prevent the need to completely dismantle the great hall when there’s a parent meeting or a speaker at OES.

As we look forward to the future of OES, a robust Production space should be considered. As Peter Buonincontro says, students in this school are willing to take risks, show up to support one another, and have the capacity to work really, REALLY hard.”