Montini High School performs ‘1984’
Pictured here is cast and crew of the performance of “1984” at Montini Catholic High School. Included are (seated, front, from left): Alyssa Ogrodny, Devin Chiaramonti, Jack Sebben, Maddie McDowell, Ali Geraci; (seated on right arm of couch): Justin Gergen and Julia Moran; (back row): Diana Maimonis, Lucy Rizzi, Mia Egan, Daniel Lansdon, John McNamara, Sofia Fisher and Zena Jabir. Story and more photos inside.

Montini Catholic High School drama students recently wrapped up their first performance in the school’s newly renovated auditorium. This year’s production, an adaptation of George Orwell’s ”1984,” (written in 1949), held Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 3 – 6, was an inspiring one in many ways.  The small “1984” cast and crew worked tirelessly throughout October and November to secure a successful opening night.

“When we found out that no matter what we were going to do, we’d have to follow all the current social distancing guidelines, and the actors would still have to wear masks, a performance seemed impossible,” said play director Kenn Cramer. “We had to ask ourselves, what play would make sense with social distancing and masks? ‘1984,’ a dystopian social science fiction novel, was the logical choice. I knew that the actors and actresses wearing masks in this production would make sense, and would not distract from the script at all.  In fact they served to enhance the play’s overall message.”

Directing his first play while at Montini with 1984, Cramer was pleasantly surprised at all the natural talent that the students brought to auditions. 

“I really hoped I would be able to help them cultivate and grow their talent,” he said.

Jack Sebben

Senior Jack Sebben was selected for the role of ‘everyman’ Winston Smith. 

“It was a much different pace from the other comedies that we have done in years past, and I think it was a very fun change,” he said. “Plus, Mr. Cramer really did an incredible job directing us.” 

Jack found the serious subject matter a definite challenge, but found that he truly enjoyed pushing himself to fit the role. 

“My acting has certainly improved over the course of the show, with the help of Mr. Cramer,” he said. “He is a very passionate, yet caring, director. He cares about his students as much (if not, more) as he does the success of the show. He certainly helped all of the cast members adapt to their serious roles.”

Prior to being cast as Winston, Jack had yet to read 1984.

“I knew that it was a dystopian novel about Big Brother,” he said. “I have always liked dystopian fiction so I’ve wanted to read it for awhile. I think it’s a very good, dramatic selection for our (seniors) second to last performance.”  He finds the most rewarding thing about theatre is seeing and hearing all of the audience members’ reactions after the show. “When people say that they were ‘actually worried for me’ or ‘very uncomfortable at some points’ then I feel very good about it.” 

Maddie McDowell

Even though senior Maddie McDowell wasn’t familiar with the novel prior to auditioning, according to several reviews, she knocked it out of the park in her role as Julia (Winston’s love interest and the only person he feels shares his hatred of the Party). 

“I’ve heard of the book in English class but I’ve never read it,” she said. “I know it’s a darker play and it’s one that really makes the audience think.” 

LIke Jack, Maddie was excited to be challenged by the serious subject matter. 

“I didn’t find performing in a drama difficult actually,” she said. “I thought that it was very fitting for what’s going on today. It was a lot different from what we’ve done in the past and it really challenged all of us to think about what we were saying instead of simply reading our lines and trying to make them funny.” 

Maddie reflects that she feels that she and her fellow castmates really grew during this play and have all improved as actors.

“It was easy because we have a director that teaches us and not only gives us criticism but he lifts us up as actors.”

Prior to “1984,” Maddie had six productions on her Bronco resume.  Before her fall play experience this year she pegged “All Shook Up” as her favorite. 

“Now I think that “1984” has taken the first place spot in my mind because it’s totally different from what we’ve done in the past and with Mr. Cramer directing us, I think we pulled it off and gave great performances,” Maddie said.

Maria Hemmersmeier

Maria Hemmersmeier played the role of Syme (is a language expert and colleague of Winston). 

“Working with a serious subject matter was a completely new experience for me, and it took a little time to adjust to the message we were trying to work toward with our performance,” she said. “In the end, I really enjoyed being involved in a more serious production, and I feel like I now have a better range of ability in acting.” 

1984 was Maria’s 5th show at Montini.  She finds each of her experiences on stage to be quite unique and different.  “If I had to pick a favorite it would either be 2019’s “Tune in to Murder” or “1984.” Last year was super fun because it was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to perform in a lead role, but this year was an amazing experience to perform a tragedy, which is something I’ve never done before.”

“Working with Mr. Cramer was very awesome,” added Maria.  “I felt like the entire cast was totally comfortable with him, and he helped us to grow in our acting abilities. I think his direction was absolutely critical in helping us adjust to the serious subject matter.”

Daniel Lansdon

Daniel Lansdon played dual roles as Martin (Inner Party member, O’Brien’s, servant) and Goldstein (an enemy of the Party).  He undoubtedly chooses 1984 as his favorite performance among his three on the Montini stage. Despite the negativity of the subject matter, he found the environment for the actors to be a positive one.

“The more serious subject matter allowed us to act in different ways than we’re used to, and was more challenging,” he said. “It was very enjoyable as it allowed us to test our acting skills, and I grew more in acting this year than I had in any of the previous three years.  Mr. Cramer gave us good and specific acting tips that helped everyone improve.”

This year Daniel lends his time to both theater and to being a member of Montini’s Student Government team.  He hopes to parlay his newfound skills in acting by trying his hand at improv in the future.  And, although he has not yet committed to a specific college yet, he has plans on pursuing a Marketing major next fall. 

“When theatre is done right, the cast and crew starts to form familial bonds, it becomes a family in the best sense,” said Cramer, who also teaches Theology at Montini.  “The family and the relationships within it are a reflection of God Himself, who is Himself a relationship. This Message is more important now than ever. We currently live in a world where we are asked to be distant from one another and this has led to many people feeling alone, lonely and disconnected.  But the unity that this cast found with each is a testament that – even in the darkest moments of our lives – if we strive to cling to relationships, it can lead to healing. It can lead us to being very real lights in the midst of the darkness.”

 

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