Theater department to honor August Wilson with new academy

Albert Malhotra

The theater program will introduce the August Wilson Performing Arts Academy (AWPAA) next school year, replacing the Humanities, Arts, and Media Academy (HAM). 

Although the academy won’t be officially in place until the school year 2022-23, the theater department will launch some of its brand-new programs this year. The academy will have two theater concentrations—performance and technical—and host monthly workshops on audition, performance, and technical skills; and monthly movie nights and live performances.

Performing Arts teacher Daniel Iwaniec and returning director Karen Harris held a theater interest and informational meeting on September 8 to go over the schedule for the upcoming year. 

After a year off due to COVID-19, Wilson theater is back on track and “shooting for the stars” this year, said Iwaniec. 

Two new extracurricular activities were also announced. For the improv and comedy lovers, Wilson is starting up an improv group called “Comedia dell’Tigre.” There will be no auditions for this group. Practices will be held on Wednesdays and Fridays. The group will get to tour middle schools and elementary schools to showcase their work.

The second extracurricular being introduced is a Wilson musical theater workshop for students interested in writing music and scripts. The workshops will be held every Tuesday and Thursday and allow participants to cast, direct, and perform student-created musicals for an audience. 

This year’s plays and musicals were also announced at the theater meeting. In December, Wilson will put on “Working” by Stephen Schwartz, a play about the hopes and dreams of London’s working class. However, to ensure COVID safety for the show, the cast has been cut down from 90 to 20 students and there will be no live audience. 

 “I personally feel like it’s a good decision…while it is disappointing that there’s not going to be much of an audience for the first show, I do realize that that’s what has to happen,” senior Guy Knoll said. “When we have great leadership such as Daniel Iwaniec and Karen Harris at the helm of Wilson shows, we should have full confidence that we will have a great year for shows.”

In March, Wilson will honor the school’s proposed new namesake, playwright August Wilson, with a production of his very own “The Piano Lesson”. For the spring musical, Wilson will put on none other than “Les Miserables”, written by Victor Hugo, Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Alain Boubill. “Les Mis” will be performed in May. 

Iwaniec and Harris aim to be as inclusive as possible in casting shows. Because of this, Wilson theater will follow “color conscious casting,” which means that directors will be taking into account ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sex, and/or gender of actors when needed for casting. 

The directors clarified that they would specify any parameters for roles prior to auditions, but if actors would like to audition for a particular role, they will have to let the casting team know beforehand in order to avoid complications.

Despite many restrictions due to COVID this year, Wilson theater is trying their best to work with what they’ve got, so be ready for yet another year full of excitement and thrill brought to you by Wilson theater. •