"The greatest sin against the Holy Spirit is being boring."
I first heard those words as a Prep student - in the eighties - from a young Jesuit named Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J. (who is now a great friend). And I have said those words a lot myself, especially as I work to make sure that the shows at the Prep are anything but boring. In fact that's why I was hired.
In 1994, then-Principal Fr. Herb Keller, S.J. (who is also now a great friend) asked me to take over Prep Drama. Fr. Keller wanted me to make Prep Drama as solid as Prep Crew or Prep Football. He wanted me to make the Prep shows better than any other schools' shows. He wanted it to be competitive to even get cast in the shows, and hoped that student audiences would find the shows actually interesting and funny. That's not something that happens very often, as the sad reality is that most high school theatre is boring.
So for twenty years, the students and I have worked hard every day in that glorious theatre - striving for excellence the same way Prep athletes do; striving to make Prep shows truly good and not boring; striving for the magis, the more. Jesuit philosophy has little tolerance for mediocrity of any kind, especially in theatre.
And things have been going swell for us. We have done shows no other high schools do (some high school world premieres even), and today over 15% of the entire Prep student body is involved in some form of Prep Drama (including, for two years running, the Varsity Crew Team in our annual Night of Scenes). The shows sell out, we get nightly standing o's, and we receive praise from parents and faculty alike.
But much of that could be considered de rigueur for many schools. In fact, there's no real way to quantify how we're doing. We don't get the determining W or L the way a competitive sports team does. So, how do we know? How do we truly know if we've, "won"?
Here's one way: a few years ago our head football Coach Gabe Infante came to see our production of The Producers. And he was so impressed by what he saw that he wanted the whole team to see the show. He tricked them into thinking they were coming to an evening practice, but instead they attended one of our final performances. And they loved it. Let’s be clear – the entire football team cheered on the drama kids at a play. That just doesn't happen at other schools, anywhere. But it happens at the Prep. And that's a W, a win. (In fact we won over a nationally ranked team!)
Next up for us is The Laramie Project, and we open November 15th. The show is actually a bit of a departure for us, for although we've done heavy stuff in the past (Death of a Salesman, 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men to name a few) it's not our usual fare. But I invite you to come see what's on display on the Prep stage, to come see what Coach Infante saw, and to come see why Prep football players like Prep plays.
Come see The Laramie Project. It won't be boring.
This blog post was written by Mr. Tony Braithwaite '89, director of The Cape & Sword Drama Society.