Through a collection of student-written stories, the Auburn Riverside High School Raven Players are inviting their audience to join them on an exploration of fear. Silhouettes’ core message is about overcoming fears, with a hope of inspiring the audience to do so in their own lives. “It has helped many of us as a cast overcome our own fears, and we hope it helps our audience as well,” said Carli Larson, ARHS Raven Players Representative.
Rather than having one cohesive storyline, the Raven Players cast “experiences a variety of different characters, tones, and genres through different student-written pieces,” explained Larson. “Not all pieces directly mention fear or talk about fear in a clear way, but they all have something to do with the things we can’t talk about; what lies deepest in our hearts.”
Silhouettes has a two-hour run time, including intermission. It opens Thursday, October 31st at the Auburn Riverside Theater (A.R.T.) at 7:00pm. The show runs 7:00pm October 31st, November 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, and 9th.
“Whether directly, or starting them down the path, we hope that everyone can begin to fight what scares them and come out more than just a silhouette of their fears,” said Larson. “We are more than just outlines and we are more than just shadows of what scares us. We are bold, beautiful people ready to take on the world.”
Auburn Examiner: How did the idea for Silhouettes come to be?
Carli Larson: Our teacher Katy Nuttman was inspired by a workshop she attended that stressed the idea of giving students the opportunity to express themselves more openly. With that, she eventually decided that we would be taking on the task of writing our own show, the first rehearsal being a group discussion about possible topics. A lot of things were thrown around and we eventually voted on the topic of “fears and phobias.” Through the process we learned more about each other as well as ourselves, finding out that fear does not define us. Taking the idea of stepping out of fear’s shadow as well as some design elements from our set, we titled our show Silhouettes.
AE: How many phobias are represented?
CL: There are too many to count. Early in the rehearsal process, we made posters that had information about each actor, including their fears. We used these as a stepping off point for inspiration in writing our scenes. With so many people coming together, people drew inspiration from all kinds of fear. There’s not a number I could name seeing as there is such a wide variety. It covers a lot of different aspects of the idea of fear.
AE: What types of phobias are included?
CL: There are a few specific ones, such as scoptophobia, [the fear of being stared at], but most of them are harder to define. The fears represented range from ones that we may laugh at, like mushrooms or cheese, as well as fears that we can’t bring ourselves to even think about. Death, bullying, being forgotten, and others that lie deep within most everyone’s hearts. These types of fears are represented in a way that can be entertaining, but also very real. It’s not often that we talk about these fears because they’re not something we can talk about very easily. Even talking about the fears, themselves can be scary. No matter what kind of fear or phobia someone has, they’ll find something they can connect to in the show, and I think that’s what’s most important.
AE: How has it been for the writers and actors working through their phobias working on this play?
CL: For some it’s been difficult. When people were first bringing in scenes to workshop, there were a few that touched a little close to home for fellow cast members. There were some tears, there were some hugs, and we moved on with writing. We pushed forward through these moments of reality and recognition and came out with some beautiful, personal pieces. Scenes that cover the idea of bullying, depression, and even family trauma are scenes that came from the deepest parts of our cast’s hearts. For some, it was hard to put those scenes onto the stage. It can be hard to lay your heart out for an entire audience to see, yet some of us have overcome that challenge and are letting themselves be vulnerable to hundreds of people each show. Some writers were cast in their own scenes, which can be difficult regarding personal pieces. Imagine, standing on stage, completely frozen, as bad memories and harsh words of the past play out around you. It’s intense to relive those things, but in a way, it can be liberating. Knowing that those things are past and that those words mean nothing now; it’s a wake-up call to cherish the journey, and a realization of all that’s good. As we overcome fears, we didn’t even know we had, we are ready to face the world. Every actor, writer, and director in this production has come out the other side with a victory of their own. A reclamation of their fears.
AE: How many members of the ARHS Raven Players are involved?
CL: Every cast member has been both a writer and an actor, sometimes even a director. We have a cast of 27 students and a tech/shift crew of 6, with house, floor, and stage manager. Every cast member (including our teacher) wrote at least one piece, often more, and after presenting, workshopping, and submitting the scripts, we voted on which scenes we wanted to be in the final script. Students in the cast also took on the role of directing as we worked on many scenes in the same time frame to maximize rehearsal time. This gave students the opportunity to not only write and act, but also to lead their peers.
AE: Are there actors for phobias who do not have that phobia? If so, what is the general sense they have working on a representation of someone else’s phobia?
CL: We didn’t write our pieces knowing who would be cast in what role. After our script had been finalized, our teacher worked all the following weekend planning and organizing so that not one person was excluded in terms of acting. There is no lead or main character because every scene is different. Everyone has a chance to act in different characters and different pieces. Since we were cast that way, we may not have the fears that are addressed in the scenes. This is especially something that happens in our comedy pieces, with fears like organic food and the word “fear.” None of us have those fears, so we do our job as actors and we act. In terms of the more personal or dramatic pieces, they often tackle fears that we all have to some degree or another. In that sense, we can dig deep into how we relate to the fear in a scene and portray it in our own way. The amazing part about writing a show is that there’s no pressure to perform it a certain way. We act with our hearts and with no heavy expectations or preset impressions. However, there were a few pieces that were not things that we can all relate to. Things that you can’t fake on a stage. Things that need to come from the heart, and from experience. In this case, our teacher cast the writer or the person who she knew would give that role the proper place it needed on our stage. In this sense, they became some of our most powerful pieces.
AE: What has been the most challenging part of this play?
CL: In the beginning of the process, even as one of our clues for what our play would be, our teacher brought up the idea that we would need to kill our darlings. The phrase “kill your darlings” comes from the concept that you may have to get rid of the ideas you love most. This happened a lot in our process, whether it was taking feedback when first bringing in a scene and changing it entirely based on that feedback or getting rid of scenes entirely as we voted on what we wanted in our final script. We lost a lot of ideas, but we came out with even stronger ones. Perhaps the biggest challenge for some of our writers was letting other students direct their scenes. We didn’t make the choice of who directed what, and not being able to push what you wrote in the exact direction you wanted it to go can be difficult. Not only that, but not being able to control who got put in roles for scenes was hard for writers because often they already had ideas about who they wanted. Even if there was some disappointment in that regard, Ms. Nuttman knew how best to cast our show, and it shows.
AE: What has been the most rewarding?
CL: I feel like all of us had a moment of pride and amazement when we finally had a paper script in our hands. It was all our hard work compiled into a real, legitimate script. We had really done it. We wrote our own show. As a writer, it is an amazing feeling to see your words come to life on the stage, whether you are a part of the scene or not. When a joke lands it feels good, when your teacher laughs no matter how many times you do that scene, it feels good. Personal pieces can be rewarding in the sense of overcoming fear by being vulnerable to fellow cast mates and an audience. Those pieces can be symbols of the challenges the writers have overcome through their life, and that reflection and appreciation is a reward itself. No matter how the performance goes, the moment the lights go up on our first show is the moment we will have truly done it. The real moment where we feel the accomplishment of our hard work as it comes to fruition in front of an eager audience.
“We are more than just shadows of what scares us.”
“We are more than just shadows of what scares us.”
AE: What would you suggest for someone who may be concerned about seeing a phobia they have represented, but still wants to attend?
CL: There a few scenes that could be disturbing or triggering for some viewers, which is why they are marked in our program. There are warnings for any piece that may include sensitive content. Audience members are encouraged to step out into the lobby for any scenes they are uncomfortable with or worried about, and they can return to their seat after the scene is over. Intense phobias are not represented heavily in our show. We don’t want to upset our audience; we want to make an impact. We want to send a message. We want everyone to know that they have the ability to overcome their fears. Fear does not define who we are, and we can’t let it. We [must] stand up to what scares us and find the strength to win our inner battles. We will stand together against fear and we will stand brave, confident, and strong. We will not be defeated by fear.
Silhouettes opens Thursday, October 31st at 7:00pm and runs November 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th and 9th. The show has a two-hour run time, including intermission. Silhouettes is performed at the Auburn Riverside Theater (A.R.T.). Admission is $5 for students with ASB card and $10 for general admission.