Tag Archives: burbank high drama

Actor And Playwright John Cariani Stops By Burbank High Play Production Online Class

Actor and playwright John Cariani stopped by Burbank High Drama teacher Donovan Glover’s Play Production class on Tuesday, August 25, for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) via Zoom.

Burbank High had intended to bring Cariani’s well-known play Almost, Maine to the Colony Theatre stage last Spring. The Drama program was in the dress rehearsal stage, about to open the play, when Burbank Unified shut down school because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost, Maine is a beautiful play about love and understanding one another,” explained Glover. “While originally playing on Broadway in the mid-2000s, it has become the most produced high school play in the U.S. over the past three years.”

Actor and playwright John Cariani held an AMA with Burbank High Play Production students. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

For 90 minutes, Cariani talked about his experiences and thoughts, how he works as a playwright, the value of feedback and in person engagement, how the pandemic has affected him and people he knows. He also answered questions students had about themes in Almost, Maine.

The pandemic “has taught me that I need time to think and read,” Cariani said, noting that he realized pre-pandemic he was rushing about and not making time to grow as a person or to have down time to reflect.

He was very clear that obstacles to realizing one’s goals are very common, “Get used to obstacles.”

“You’re gonna find the people who do care if you don’t quit,” he also said.

Cariani also emphasized the importance of constructive feedback and opening one’s self up to criticism, “Something magical happens when people meet each other.”

His advice for the students? “Take this time to think about ‘what do I want to do? What am I passionate about?’ Don’t lie to yourself.”

Students in Donovan Glover’s Play Production at Burbank High School participated in a special Zoom class with actor and playwright John Cariani. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Cariani characterized his work as “love stories for not hot people,” after explaining his background as a character actor and that he was really interested in telling stories about regular people with regular jobs and lives.

Even as an established playwright now, he underlined the importance of exercising the skill, mentioning that he always writes for at least two minutes every morning. Sometimes it turns into a whole day of writing, sometimes it doesn’t.

As an artist, “you have to put in the work to maintain the skills you want to retain,” he said.

“I thought Mr. Cariani’s visit with the Play-Pro students was fantastic,” commented Glover. “He had so much information to share with the students – about playwriting and acting, regarding the trials and tribulations of making it as a young artist,  and even just some positive, philosophical approaches to take in life.”

“I’d asked each student to research his work, and come prepared with at least two questions. Poor things – most couldn’t get one question out. Nevertheless, they were all drinking up all he had to say. We went on for an hour and a half, and then I had to finally call an end to it,” Glover added. “John would’ve probably kept going, but I didn’t want to take advantage of his time and caring. He really does seem to genuinely care. Of course, my young, creative students need that. Most of them hung out after, thrilled about the experience.”

The cast of Burbank High’s “Almost, Maine” in March 2020, just before their production was cut short by COVID-19 closures. (Photo Courtesy Donovan Glover)

“I was really thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Zoom call because I got to hear from an industry professional and listen to his perspective and his experiences working as a writer and an actor,” said senior Joelle Darrouj, who was on the costume/prop team for Almost, Maine and has been in the Drama program for three years.

“When being tasked with a creative project, I am a person that tends to get stuck in my head and my vision of things, and one eye-opening reminder I received from Mr. Cariani was the importance of listening to others and their opinions and experiences about things.”

“Though I may not always be inclined to agree to their ideas, sometimes what someone else comes up with will be much better than something that I came up with,” Darrouj, a writer and theater producer, also said.

Burbank High students rehearse for their soon-to-be-canceled production of “Almost, Maine” in March 2020. (Photo Courtesy Donovan Glover)

“It was interesting to hear from Mr. Cariani and to hear his views and opinions on things! As an actor and writer, it was really cool to hear about the process it takes for him to build the characters and situations that we end up performing in the shows,” commented senior Malia Le’au, who’s been in Drama for four years.

“Specifically when he brought up the scene ‘They Fell’ in his play Almost, Maine, he talked about writing the scene with both male and female characters, he touched on the difference in the scripts and the way things were said or presented, because not everything would’ve translated perfectly into the other genders perspective.”

“It was awesome to learn more about that scene, especially since that would’ve been the scene I was in if COVID-19 hadn’t halted our performance. He also spoke about his experience on Broadway, while Almost, Maine was being performed for the first time,” Le’au continued. “It was inspiring to hear about the multiple successes he had all at once, and insightful to hear about how he dealt with it.”

“Mr. Cariani gave us some super helpful information on the creative process. He assured the class that writers block is more of a constant than a mood; that writing might not always be easy or fun,” said senior Brandon Wilson, who’s been in the Drama program for four years. “That being said, he also made it clear that if you want to be a writer, you have to actually write, gifting us the advice of writing for at least a few minutes every day.”

“He additionally gave us a privileged opportunity to look at his ‘writing wall,’ a wall covered with poster paper, each full of segments of a story he’s piecing together,” Wilson also said. “These factors make it clear that Cariani knows his craft incredibly well, and we are lucky to have had the interview.”

What’s next for students in Play Production, operating as they are with remote learning?

“We are planning to create a digital sketch comedy show (a la SNL or Mad TV),” explained Glover. “For the Spring, I’m not sure yet. If we return to live instruction, we’ll likely put on our student-directed, student-written One-Act Festival, as well as a major play production.”

Burbank High Students Present “The Crucible”

Students in the Burbank High School Drama program present The Crucible at The Colony Theatre with four shows on Thursday through Saturday, April 11 – 13. The Crucible is a partially-fictional 1953 play by Arthur Miller that dramatizes the 1692-93 Salem witch trials at the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Directed by Drama teacher Donovan Glover, who’s in his second year at BHS, The Crucible includes the entire advanced Play Production class, some students from Karen Broderick’s Theater Tech class and a few students from the Drama 2 class who make up the costume and prop crew.

Burbank High School students rehearse for “The Crucible”: (left to right) Jake Noren (John Proctor) 12th grade, Tyler Wahe (Giles Corey) 12th Grade, Azat Sayadi (Anne Putnam) 11th grade, Mohamed Malla (Thomas Putnam) 11th grade, Brie Carns (Rebecca Nurse) 12th grade, Parker Swierczynski (Reverend Parris) 11th grade, Natalie Haroun (Betty Parris) 10th grade. (Photo Courtesy Analise Torres)

“I love the art of directing, particularly when it’s combined with teaching,” said Glover, who previously ran the Theatre Academy at CHAMPS Charter High School before landing at BHS. “I am intent on developing a truly great high school Drama program – one not simply for putting plays together, but one devoted to driving, inspiring, and honing the voices of young artists; as well as producing top-notch, thought-provoking theater (regardless of the actors’ ages).”

“The young artists involved in this current production are remarkable,” commented Glover, who has been directing, writing and acting in theater for almost 30 years. “This is largely the same group of folks that co-created last Fall’s kooky and colorful Spamalot.”

“Last January, they presented a student-written, student-directed One-Act Festival – an eclectic array of original works. And now, we’ve switched gears entirely to delve into this raw, dark, and all too timely world of bullying and intolerance.”

“There is a central force of devotion in this production,” Glover said. “Each cast member is so entirely committed to their role in making this bleak work beautiful and haunting.”

“It is such an important work, perhaps now more than in many decades. I hope people will take the time to come see it, think about what is said, and be impressed by how we all say it.”

Burbank High School students rehearse for “The Crucible”: (left to right) Will Stern (Ezekiel Cheever) 11th grade, Baylen Johnson (John Willard) 10th grade, Kobe Jones (Francis Nurse) 12th grade, Karo Dzhgalian (John Hale) 12th grade, Tyler Wahe (Giles Corey) 12th grade, Carter Nicklaus (John Proctor) 11th grade. (Photo Courtesy Mama J)

Helping the young actors connect with their Crucible characters and time period more than 300 years in the past was an exercise in itself.

“A couple months ago, I gave the cast an assignment to share their character’s life (via an original monologue), as well as present a painting and a piece of music that represented the essence of their Salem character,” Glover explained. “One after another, these presentations were astoundingly profound and challenging… and often beautiful.”

“Many of the music pieces inspired me in my score-creation for this show. Other than the score, we have stripped the show’s production elements down to focus on the actors and Arthur Miller’s words.”

“Of course, we have costumes (dingy, non-traditional), stark lighting and a minimal, Expressionist set, but what will really stand out when one sees this show will be the grave understanding and powerful depth of these actors’ work.”

“Along with Karen Broderick and Patricia Tripp [costumes], I’ve also been helped immeasurably by my acting-coach wife, Maria McCann,” Glover added. “Because I get so utterly devoted to what I’m creating on stage, this allows us to be in the same world, and talk the same talk together… which is nice.”

Burbank High School students rehearse for “The Crucible”: (left to right) Richard Duenckel (John Hale)12th grade, Lily Kamm (Elizabeth Proctor) 11the grade, Jake Noren (John Proctor) 12th grade. (Photo Courtesy Analise Torres)

“It’s been a super awesome experience,” said junior Abby Griffith, who plays Elizabeth Proctor. “Personally, it’s probably been one of the most challenging roles I’ve had because typically we do comedies or musicals and haven’t done anything dramatic to the scale of The Crucible.”

“Getting into her character can be really vulnerable and challenging but it’s also been very rewarding,” Griffith also said. “It’s also been so amazing getting to perform in The Colony Theatre, being able to perform in a professional theater with legitimate dressing rooms.”

“My experience with The Crucible was pretty special and different in that there was a major focus on individual character development,” commented senior Karo Dzhgalian. “Mr. Glover let us pick a piece of music and a work of art to show that we understand the essence of the character.”

“We also were able to go through with Glover’s wife, Mrs. McCann, line by line to really dig deep as to what the character is trying to communicate. I thought this really helped me understand my intentions and allowed me to craft a better performance.”

“Being in The Colony was interesting in that I think makes the whole experience more genuine,” Dzhgalian added. “As someone who wants to pursue acting as a career, I think being able to work and perform in an actual theater as opposed to the school theater was important in that those types of theaters are the ones I want to perform in. Overall I’m pleased with the whole experience and being able to dig deep into this classic and important piece of theater.”

Burbank High School students rehearse for “The Crucible”: Lily Kamm (Elizabeth Proctor) 11th grade, Jake Noren (John Proctor) 12th grade. (Photo Courtesy Patricia Tripp)

Senior Analise Torres counts The Crucible as her third project as stage manager.

“I love it so much,” Torres said. “I have been working with our costuming team and our tech team, and I keep communication flowing between everyone.”

“I also help with the creative process like when it comes to movement of the actors or anything tech wise.,” Torres also said. “Working with everyone is so great and I thrive in the work environment.”

“This show is one of the best I’ve seen from our ensemble, especially the younger members. It is all coming together beautifully and I can’t wait for opening night.”

Burbank High School has four performances of The Crucible set at The Colony Theatre: Thursday, April 11, through Saturday, April 13, at 7:00 p.m., with a matinee on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank, with plenty of free parking in the adjacent parking structure.

Some of the roles are double cast – specifically the roles of Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, Reverend Hale, John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor. The two groups – the Salem and the Devil casts – perform two of the four shows each.

Tickets are $10 for students pre-sale and at the door with ASB card and $15 for general admission pre-sale and $18 at the door. Tickets are available in advance here.

Image Courtesy Burbank High School Drama Department.

Burbank High Drama Presents “All In The Timing”

The Burbank High School Drama Department presents All in the Timing, a collection of six one-act plays, on Friday, October 16, and Saturday, October 17. Written by David Ives, All in the Timing, is directed by the school’s new Theater teacher, Ted DeVirgilis.

DeVirgilis replaced former theater head Brooks Gardner, who retired in June, and “knew Ives’ All in the Timing — six silly, smart, illuminating one-act comedies about relativity, randomness and our place in the space-time continuum — would be the perfect first play to direct, and something he’s wanted to tackle for 20 years since first seeing a production of it while attending Syracuse University.”

Twelfth-graders Chelsy Cordon Rojas and Vicktor Aggerwhil examine "Variations on the Death of Trotsky" for Burbank High's performance of "All In The Timing." (Photo Courtesy Burbank High School Drama Dept.)

Twelfth-graders Chelsy Cordon Rojas and Vicktor Aggerwhil examine “Variations on the Death of Trotsky” for Burbank High’s performance of “All In The Timing.” (Photo Courtesy Burbank High School Drama Dept.)

The production includes, according to DeVirgilis: “Sure Thing,” which shows how tough it is for two people to make a love connection, as a bell rings whenever one makes a faux-pas; “Words, Words, Words” invokes the infinite monkey theorem – three monkeys left with enough time will eventually write Hamlet; “Universal Language” introduces to Burbank a new way to communicate, bringing all the languages of the world – and two lonely characters – into harmony; “The Philadelphia” follows a character stuck in a state of being that resembles a black hole… but also serves cheese steak; “Variations on the Death of Trotsky” reveals the Russian revolutionary leader on his final day, coping with the time-space continuum and an axe in his head; “Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread” is a 10-minute slice of avant-garde madness, which is what happens whenever the minimalist composer simply visits a bakery.

“This is not your typical high school play, but I’m sure the audience will laugh. But it’s also challenging, and I want them to think,” commented DeVirgilis. “And there at least one time when things on stage are so strange, they might even be a little disturbed. Nothing for parents to be worried about.”

“Just taking a closer look at things we take for granted or looking at them in a different way. What’s better than being surprised at the theatre?”

Ariana Roth , Margarita Yazichyan and Paige Eccles provide Scene Change Lazzi, or physical comedy/entertainment in between scene changes for the acts.

The production’s design team includes set designer Karen Broderick, who is also the Drama Department’s new Stagecraft teacher, costumes by Marissa Maynes and lighting professional Derrick Kolus, who is assisted by twelfth-grader Hunter Stockwell.

“This has been a great show to work on because Ted DeVirgilis was open to taking the way the play is written with its rhythms, patterns and repetition, along with its quirks and comedy and relativity,” said Broderick who conceptualized the play’s very abstract sets. “He let us really put it into the scenery, lighting and costumes.”

“There are walls that move after every piece and reform to another completely different setting,” added Broderick. “It’s been a great collaboration between myself as set designer, Derrick Kolus, the lighting designer, and Marissa Maynes, the costume designer, to support Ted and give him a strong pallet to work with on his first show as the new Director of Theater at BHS.”

Fiona Maeve Czerwinski, grade 11, and Joshua Johnson, grade 12, rehearse a scene from "Sure Thing" as part of the Burbank High Fall Drama performance "All In The Timing." (Photo Courtesy Burbank High School Drama Dept.)

Fiona Maeve Czerwinski, grade 11, and Joshua Johnson, grade 12, rehearse a scene from “Sure Thing” as part of the Burbank High Fall Drama performance “All In The Timing.” (Photo Courtesy Burbank High School Drama Dept.)

DeVirgilis, who spent the past 12 years as a teacher at John Muir Middle School, is very excited to share his training and expertise with his talented young actors.

“What I want to do with the students at Burbank High is give them some of those skills they’ll get in college, different acting methods and vocal training,” he explained. “I want to show them that acting is more than just getting up there and getting a quick laugh. That there’s an art to it all.”

“I’ve helped with the program and making sure things behind the scenes are running smoothly so Mr. DeVirgilis can be with the actors,” said Assistant Director and BHS student Naira Demirchian. “I think the play is coming along really well and Mr. D’s doing a great job with them.”

“They’re putting together a really amazing play with a lot of great stories. They’re funny but also very heartwarming. And our sets are incredible! I just hope I helped in any way I can because I know Mr. D wants this play to be fantastic, and I fully believe it will be.”

“I would like to just say this has been an amazing and challenging experience; it’s a difficult play but it has tons of potential,” commented Brandon Kilham, who appears in “Universal Language.” “I am very excited to see how things turn out and very thankful [for] Mr. DeVirgilis’ commitment and hard work.”

Pre-sale tickets can be found at BurbankDrama.com, where tickets are $10.00 for general admission, $20 for reserved VIP seats. On the day of the show, adults are $15, Students $10, Students w/ASB cards are $5. BHS is located at 902 N. 3rd Street, Burbank 91502.

Timing poster