Students Jake Maglio ’22 and David Xi ’21 may have found theater through different paths, but continued to study it at George School because they both realized the impact it had on them. Jake has always been interested in theater and was involved with community theater before attending George School. David discovered theater at his international middle school in China. “I decided to join the theater group as a way to improve my English,” said David. “Honestly, the expectations were low, but I enjoyed it and wanted to continue theater at George School. At George School, I also discovered a real passion for acting and directing.”
Both Jake and David appreciate the professional and collaborative nature of George School’s theater department. When talking about the fall 2020 performance of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, Jake explained, “For casting this production, it was decided we would cast collaboratively rather than hold auditions. This was partly due to COVID-19 but also to teach us a different method. Students selected which character they wished to play and had to demonstrate before the entire group why they should be selected for the role. This forced us to answer the question, ‘Why do I want this part and what can I bring from my personal and artistic perspective?’ It required more self-reflection and collaboration than an audition and helped us grow both personally and artistically.”
David echoed this, “As a freshman, I was part of The Laramie Project and doing this follow up production pushed me to the next level. It was great to play the same character and show how he has developed.”
For the production, Jake also directed and managed the stage. “Part of the reason we selected this production was to allow distance learners to participate,” said Jake. We wanted to be inclusive, and it has been rewarding to learn how to direct over Zoom.”
Through his global politics class, David was able to apply his acting skills outside of the theater department. Collaborating with film students, David’s group won third place in the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Speak Truth to Power Video Contest in 2020. Their film Seeger’s Seek of Truth focuses on Daniel Seeger a resident of neighboring Pennswood Village and his fight for the right to conscientious objection. In preparing for this role as the narrator, David wanted to be as compelling as possible. “I decided to reverse engineer the script for this production,” explained David. “Drawing upon writing skills learned in English and character analysis from theater I was able to craft a powerful narrative and use acting skills in my delivery.”
Jake enjoys composing and admires Andrew Lloyd Webber. “You need such a clear vision and the ability to translate in order to compose and write a strong script,” said Jake. “My favorite production is Jesus Christ Superstar. As a director, it can be challenging to present an established production because the audience has certain expectations about how it should be told, but a great director can help shape the message and the focus, ensuring the story is nuanced and different each time it is presented.”
Not being able to perform in front of a live audience because of COVID-19 is disappointing, but the students are making the most of it. “As actors, the energy of the audience is critical as we want them to feel what we are feeling, we want to draw them in, connect and engage them,” said David. “Seeing them react is powerful and encourages us.” However, Jake did say, “It is a bit disconcerting when you know people in the audience. It takes longer to prepare when your family and classmates are in the audience, but a good actor has to set this aside.”
Both David and Jake would love alumni, particularly those who were part of the theater program, to come back to campus and enjoy a show. “It would mean a lot to the students for alumni to come back and support us in this way. I know I will be coming back when I become an alum next year,” said David.