Sarah K. ’11 sits at a large desk with padding around her middle, wearing an argyle sweater and large round glasses. She recites poetry to a group of rowdy teenage boys and occasionally reprimands the students by hitting them with a rolled up newspaper. No, this is not a typical Saturday night for the senior actress but a recurring scene from The History Boys, in which she plays eccentric English instructor Douglas Hector.
Drama Ensemble performed Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, which takes place at an all-boys school in blue-collar London and focuses on the trials of adolescence, between Mar. 7 and 14 in the Stark Family Intimate Theatre. Directed by Performing Arts Department Head Anne Scarbrough, the show grappled with issues that the School community could relate to and discuss, including the college process, teaching skills and the subject of history.
“Just watching the play, I thought that so much of it was taken from Marlborough,” Bre ’11 said. “It was like watching yourself in a play as a boy. The relationships between the boys and the relationships between the boys and their teachers made it seem like I was looking into a mirror.”
Each year, Scarbrough first chooses the members of Drama Ensemble and then finds the play that best fits the group. According to Scarbrough, she tries to find a play that will match the number of students in the ensemble, challenge the girls and promote interesting conversation around campus.
“Choosing the play is the hardest thing I do because I have to consider all of these different materials. The History Boys hits on so many qualities,” Scarbrough said. “There’s wonderful material the girls can chew on as students.”
While rehearsing for the show, the members of Drama Ensemble had to adopt a convincing British accent, learn about the education system in Britain, research the cultural background of the 1980s and discuss the poets and writers in the play, including W.H. Auden and A.E. Housman.
“We have a very smart audience, but this play could make them feel dumb,” Scarbrough said.
After immersing themselves in the texts of the play, the girls in Drama Ensemble led a discussion about a few specific poems with a group of parents and later with AP English classes.
Scarbrough also said the girls had to practice acting like boys. Sarah K. said that one of the hardest things she had to deal with was learning how to walk, talk and act like a middle-aged man.
“Adopting the right physicality was really hard. I used to always think, ‘Bigger is better.’ But in this play, instead of acting overly dramatic it was important to play characters more naturally. It was more about being the character than acting the character,” Sarah K. said.
Unfortunately, many cast members faced an additional challenge after learning their lines and studying contextual literature, history and culture: recovering from the flu.
“We were hit with the plague” Scarbrough said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had another group that was capable of overcoming the challenges that these girls did.”
Scarbrough said she initially had cut 22 hours of rehearsal to give the girls more balance in their lives. On top of that, the girls lost about two weeks of rehearsal to illnesses.
“The great thing was that we were ahead of schedule,” Sarah K. said. “I think the biggest impact of the ‘plague’ was that we couldn’t put in as many precious details as we would have if we had more time. But regardless, we didn’t lose any substance.”