Category: Performing Arts

zoom_photo291753_3852295On October 15th, 2013, Ms. Vickery and Mr. Haggard took five Thacher dancers to Chongqing, China, to perform in front of ten thousand people. I caught up with three of the dancers – Grace Bingham ‘15, Wesley Liang ‘15, and Hayley Kong ‘15 – to get their view on the trip.

Arianna Finger: What were your feelings prior to your trip to China?

Grace Bingham: Before China I was really excited, but I don’t think I really understood, exactly, like what the trip would be like. A lot of us were really nervous about school work, but we also just didn’t understand how many people would be there. Going to China we thought we were going to perform in front of a little festival, but we were really excited.

Shopping for handbags! The girls explored the variety of shopping experiences China had to offer. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery
Handbags! The girls explored a variety of shopping experiences in China. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery

Hayley Kong: I had been there this past spring break when I was in Shanghai with my family for a trip. But nothing can compare to jumping into a world where they speak a language you can’t begin to comprehend and they all stare at you. Even though I had been before, I was very anxious at the prospect of flying solo with Grace and meeting a man there who we didn’t know and didn’t even know what he looked like or his name, and he would take us to the hotel.  Once we got there, it was mostly exciting, and really a thrill.  Grace and I looked at each other with a look that basically said, Whoa, we’re in China. And that basically set up the whole trip.  It was really a whirlwind trip and it was hard to let it sink in that we were in China in the middle of the school year to perform a dance, a dance that we spent tons of hours preparing and rehearsing.

AF: When you got to China, what did you do while not performing?

GB: The first day we got there, it was around 6 am and Hayley and I went straight to the hotel, and then we took a nap, and then went straight to the square. We toured around the square and the city for a little while, and because we were from America, people would stare at us and ask us for pictures. Carrie and I both had people take pictures of us with their children, so yeah that was cool. We also visited the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, it was awesome and crazy.

Posing with statues. The girls also had time to explore cultural treasures including the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery
The girls strike serious poses with ancient statues. The girls explored a variety of cultural treasures including the Forbidden City and The Great Wall. Photo Credit Gallia Vickery

HK: We explored temples and the Forbidden City and even just explored all the interesting shops and things happening on the streets. The culture of China is very different, and yet fascinating.

AF: Tell me about the performance.

Wesley Liang: First off, the sheer size of an audience as large as 10,000 was incredible, unreal in fact, when we first heard about it. Honestly, I felt like I was dreaming at first. When it got to the time of the actual performance, all of the excitement and nervousness that was bottled up inside me literally exploded. In addition to my excitement and anxiety, my adrenaline kicked in the moment I stepped onto the stage, giving me an elevated view of the audience.

View from the sound box of the show's stage. Approximately 10,000 fans were on hand to watch. Photo Credit Greg Haggard
View of approximately 10,000 fans from the sound box of the show’s stage.  Photo Credit Greg Haggard

GB: When we got there and saw where we were performing, and then found out that we were going to be performing in front of 10,000 people . . . that kind of made everything more real. Everyone was staring at us, and we were wearing our sweat pants so we probably looked really weird. But, we warmed up, and right before we went on stage, we were really nervous, and very scared, we actually thought they were all going to hate us. We gave each other pep talks, about how it doesn’t matter what they think, and then we got on stage and it was insane.

HK: Yeah, when we got on stage, it was immediately clear that all those hours were way worth it.  The crowd went crazy when we went on stage, and continually through our performance they cheered us on, which really powered us through the dance and fueled our best performance.

WL: When they were cheering, applauding, screaming, and waving glowsticks in the darkness, it made the scene even more unreal than it had already been. Thousands on thousands of glowsticks and faces were directed towards me, and I can’t describe how breathtaking of a sight it was and how hyped I was in that moment. I also felt the energy flowing from the four other dancers as we began to perform.

GB: It was awesome. For the first number, Steam Heat, there was this red light, and steam that was going off the stage. The Chinese are really conservative, but they actually ended up really liking us and yelling for us. Coming off stage it was just the most incredible feeling, it was honestly a once in a lifetime feeling.

Glow sticks galore! Photo Credit Greg Haggard
Glow sticks galore! Photo Credit Greg Haggard

WL: Everyone of us performed the best we ever performed and will ever perform in that four minutes of fame and glory. Even when the music stopped before the end of the piece because of technical difficulties, we carried on as if nothing had happened, and finished off the piece with bright smiles. The audience roared even louder after we finished the performance, bowed, and left the stage. The overwhelming support from the audience truly made it an extraordinary and unforgettable experience for me. This is an experience that I will forever cherish and remember for the rest of my life.

Afterwards, Ms. Gallia Vickery also commented:

Working with Greg Haggard and these five dancer/singers was one of the best experiences of my life. The opportunity to work with a small group of talented and passionate people creating the 20 minute piece was wonderful. The performance venue provided some challenges, but watching these young women performing like ‘rock stars’ in front of 10,000 people, and hearing the audiences reaction was amazing.

To read about the Dance Ensemble’s journey prior to arriving in China, read Ana Levy’s report here!

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His twitter bio reads, “Robot Mime. Surgeon. Caveman. Peruvian Emperor. Green Grapes. American Ex-Pat. Canadian Immigrant. Self-Verified.”

His license plate reads, “IMDB Me.”

He spent one year at school with the moniker “Man Lux” after the Ojai newspaper misnamed him in a photo caption of a Thacher soccer game.

Who is he?

J.P. Manoux.

Mr. Manoux, CdeP 1987 is back on campus while on break from a whirlwind career in film and television. Manoux is best known for his roles in the Emperor’s New School, Phil of the Future – in which he acted and directed – and Community. He credits his first acting experience and capabilities to “silly assembly announcements that led to a career in comedy.”

His path to the silver screen was not easy. After studying theater at Northwestern and learning from the best improv and sketch comedians in downtown Chicago, Manoux moved to Los Angeles.

“It was four years before I made a penny acting. Slowly small parts on sitcoms led to tiny parts in big movies and then bigger parts in smaller movies.”

JP Manoux rests in one of the Adirondak chairs at the Anacapa Scholars cabin. Photo Credit Lexie Kirkwood '14
JP Manoux rests in one of the Adirondak chairs at the Anacapa Scholars cabin. Photo Credit Lexie Kirkwood ’14

His first real jobs acting were in commercials for Fruit of the Loom and then he picked up a job with Disney Channel.

After getting his start, Mr. Manoux continued acting and eventually directing in Los Angeles until he later became a permanent resident of Toronto, Canada, where he worked on the show Spun Out. He is currently waiting for the show to air, and in the mean time has decided to escape the Northern weather for a taste of Ojai’s sunshine.

Mr. Manoux will be directing the winter musical, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, as well as teaching drama classes and working with the soccer teams.

Mr. Cal Jensen CdeP 2006, Thacher’s new technical director, enjoys having Mr. Manoux on campus.

“In the brief time that I have known him, he seems like a cool guy, and an excellent choice to direct the winter musical. It’s a cool experience for him to come back and direct as well as have the students have an interaction with someone who understands their experience on the Thacher stage.”

This fall, the Thacher school showcased their theatrical talent through the production of the renowned play Our Town, written by Thacher (kind of) alum Thornton Wilder. Directed by Mr. Jake Jacobsen, head of the English Department, the play ran for four nights in a row, improving with each performance.

The cast began rehearsals in mid-September, allowing for almost ten weeks of practice to perfect the famous drama.

Kathryn Lynch '16, Bailey Cypheridge '15, and Laura Kirkland '15 perform a scene from Wilder's Our Town.
Kathryn Lynch ’16, Bailey Cypheridge ’15, and Laura Kirkland ’15 perform a scene from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Wilder attended The Thacher School and began writing plays while at The Thacher School.  Photo Credit Dana Vancisin

Laura Kirkland ‘15, who has appeared in every fall play since her freshman year, commented on the production as a whole:

It was really amazing to see how far we came over the many weeks of rehearsal. The cast and crew worked so hard throughout the entire process, but we couldn’t have done it without the amazing technical support of Mr. Jensen and the wonderful direction of Mr. Jacobsen. They made the production into a truly unforgettable experience!

Mr. Cal Jensen, CdeP 2006, though involved with numerous Thacher performances, was inducted only this year as a faculty member, making his official technical debut this month with the production of Our Town. Along with the rest of the crew, the light, sound, and stage managers displayed a well executed performance, allowing the audience to focus on the acting and not technical mishaps.

This rendition of a classic tale not only pleased the people involved in the show, but also the audience members, as students and teachers alike were enthralled by the haunting tale of life, love, and inevitable death.

Cassandra James, ‘15, stated that, “The play was eye-opening in the sense that it made you stop and evaluate your life; you were forced to observe all of the things that you take for granted, especially the little things.”

Stella Frank '15 plays the role of young Wally Webb. Photo Credit Dana Vancisin
Stella Frank ’15 plays the role of young Wally Webb in Act One of Wilder’s Our Town. The minimalist stage setting emphasized the characters’ lines and the play’s storyline.  Photo Credit Dana Vancisin

Director Jake Jacobsen was the Drama Director from 1991 – 2002 and directed both the fall play and the musical for those eleven years, plus taught Introduction to Drama and Advanced Acting in addition to two classes of English. He directed the play approximately 20 years ago at the outdoor amphitheatre.

Of this most recent production, Mr. Jacobsen said:

The cast has embraced the play in ways I had hoped but didn’t dare to expect. As always, my favorite part of the process is watching the players discover the truth and beauty behind a playwright’s words. As the weeks progressed and the actors grew more comfortable in their roles, I started to hear the play in a different way—and am more convinced than ever that Our Town is, as Edward Albee said, ‘probably the finest play ever written by an American.’

Overall, Our Town, proved to be a huge success, as students and teachers came together to demonstrate the often overlooked artistic and theatrical talent of the student body.

It’s 5:05 on a Tuesday. Groups of girls leave the dance studio in leotards and spandex, ready to beat the crowd to the showers and get dressed for formal dinner. But not all. Four huddle around the fruit stand, chowing down on apples and pears. Another joins them, already tired and hungry from her tennis practice.

These girls won’t be going to formal today. They have rehearsal.

On October 15, Ms. Vickery, Mr. Haggard, Carrie Eastburn ’16, Grace Bingham ’15, Morgana Van Peebles ’16, Hayley Kong ’15 and Wesley Liang ’15 will be leaving for Beijing, China. They are headed to a university in Chongqing, for a music and dance festival that they have been rehearsing for since preseason this year. These dancers and Ms. Vickery have been rehearsing about 5 hours a week, in addition to living the rest of their busy Thacher lives.

“We have a 20 minute piece that goes from musical theatre (Steam Heat from the Pajama Game) to jazz with a little hip hop, and then the song Blower’s Daughter in which dancers have solos, and finishing with a contemporary ballet piece. The jazz and ballet segments are to original music written by Mr. Haggard,” reports Ms. Vickery, who has choreographed the entire piece.

The dancers sing in three of the four segments, adding another element of complexity to the piece, and requiring more rehearsal time.

The opportunity to travel to China and perform is certainly fantastic.

“I never imagined I would have a chance to travel anywhere out of state for dance, let alone across the pacific ocean to China,” says Hayley Kong, who has been to China before, but did not imagine she would be back so soon.

Morgana Van Peebles, one of the two sophomores, says that when she was asked to go on the trip she automatically said yes. The group will be gone for 7 days, and while they are there able to perform multiple times, at the opening ceremony of the festival and again the next day.

Obviously, putting this whole event together takes a lot of work. You would think that the dancers would be overwhelmed by the amount of work that they have, but all are maintaining a positive attitude.

“The extra rehearsals inconvenient can be at times, but going to China is worth it,” says Morgana. “There are so many more upsides than downsides.”

Still, everyone involved has had to make sacrifices. Morgana notes she was not able participate in the production of Our Town, because she would miss too many rehearsals.

Ms. Vickery, who as well as choreographing and teaching the four routines has continued to teach Fall Dance, in addition to her duties as a math teacher, advisor, and dorm faculty. It is understandable then that she made the decision that there would be no additional performance by the Dance Ensemble this fall.

We all know that the prospect of missing school at Thacher can be terrifying. Still, the dancers are not too worried.

“I know we will be working closely with our teachers to bring work with us so we won’t be too far behind,” says Hayley Kong.

Since Ms. Vickery and Mr. Haggard will be going to China as well, substitute teachers have been arranged for Mr. Haggard’s music classes and Chamber, and for Ms. Vickery’s math classes and Fall Dance.

It is obvious that Thacher is moving in an increasingly international direction. In the past few years students have traveled with the school to Cuba, China, Haiti, and this summer a group led by Mr. Jacobsen will be going to Cambodia. This spring break, the Chamber Singers will be heading to Puerto Rico to attend a choral festival. Every year Thacher send juniors to School Year Abroad programs. As a school containing students from all over the world, it is encouraging to see groups “pop” the Thacher bubble.

On Oct 1 after formal, the dancers had a 9 minute preview of their 20 minute show. They performed Steam Heat, the jazz/musical theatre number, and Yes In My Feet, a jazz/hip hop combo. This was also a test for the microphones, which the group will have to bring to China with them in a cumbersome 3×3 foot case. New costumes, red leotards and black shorts, props, and bowler hats that the dancers use during Steam Heat, were also tested out.

The performance drew raves reviews from students and faculty members.

As the five girls and two teachers prepare to leave, excitement runs high. We will all be wishing them well.

ANA LEVY ’14

From the start to the finish, for those in Thacher School’s most recent play, it has been a long haul. Students have been sacrificing their own time in order to make this production work and there is not a single member of the cast or crew who will tell you that it was easy.

Unlike many of the audience, I was not familiar with the play in the least. I had never heard of the word Spamalot until Mr. Sandy Jensen announced the play at assembly to my dubious confusion and the enthusiastic cheers of the rest of the crowd. When I walked into the Milligan Center to see Spamalot on the Friday showing, I was completely unprepared.

Like many musicals, the show began with a remix of the many soundtracks. While somewhat long, it did give the audience enough time to settle down and quiet until Harry Hayman stepped on stage. With a 50% of pestilence and famine, the show began…in Finland. Naturally, this was quickly corrected.

Paul Cresanta leapt into the role of King Arthur. He portrayed a regal, haughty, and hilarious King Arthur who also had a certain degree of self-pity when it came to being alone. Strutting around on his ‘horse’, his delivery and passion never failed to make the audience laugh. Accompanied by Patsy, the Jewish horse and servant, the two made an unfailing duo and somehow managed to pull King Arthur out of his brief depression.

Sir Galahad, played by Jonathan Chang (and also known as Sir Prat), was possibly another one of my favorite characters in the play. The best line he ever delivered was directly following the Lady of the Lake’s beautiful song. Two words. “Oh wow.”

We come, of course, to Jacqueline King’s beautiful (if somewhat spoiled) Lady of the Lake. She perhaps had the more serious songs in the show, but even they made the audience chuckle and, occasionally, gasp with laughter. The scene where she was prodding Arthur to marry her was certainly one that can not be overlooked. Secretly though, I was actually hoping Arthur would marry Patsy.

Perhaps my favorite two characters of the entire show though were Sir Lancelot and his beautiful bride–Prince Herbert. Played by Jackson Dolphin and Colin Troughton respectively, the two made a beautiful couple. Dolphin’s reactions as Lancelot to Herbert’s declaration of his homosexuality was perhaps one of the most hilarious (if controversial) moment in the entire play. Colin Troughton also played his role to perfection and after watching the play twice in a row on both Friday and Saturday, it was still one of the parts I could re-watch over and over again. Of course, the pair’s final line would serve as the icing on the cake.

“They are a different people, a multi-talented people, a people… who need people… and who are, in many ways, the luckiest people in the world.”

While the stage in the Thacher School is not Broadway, the actors remain true to the words of Sir Robin (though not necessarily Jewish). Each and every member of the cast and crew are different people and a multi-talented people. And to have been in such a beautiful production, they are indeed in many ways, some of the luckiest people in the world.

JEAN LI ’13