By High School theater teacher Jeff Redman
Last weekend, the Black Box Theater at the International School of Beijing (ISB) played host to an engaging theatrical production by the High School Theater Department. Students brought to the stage Anon(ymous), by playwright Naomi Iizuka; a modern re-telling of Homer's classic Greek poem The Odyssey.
Written in 2006, the play is more relevant now than when it first premiered. With an increase in migration, refugees, years of wars, the message of the play really resonated with our audience and the theater ensemble. It's a memory play, a family play, a hero's journey thrown into the modern world with the feeling of something not just old but ancient.
Audience members entered the space in a way that was designed to mimic a refugee experience, by passing through various checkpoints and then being brought into the Black Box to share in the experience together.
This show was a departure from traditional theater and provided a multitude of new opportunities for the cast and crew. Moving into the Black Box for a fully produced piece of theater took a Herculean effort as we had to transform a room that had not been utilized as a performance space in a while.
Beginning with a set piece that serves as a multifunctional acting space, we used striking imagery, immersive sound, and theatrical moments to bring the story to life. Our cast and crew threw themselves into the process and by opening night were fully in charge of the performances.
I believe in the transformative nature of theater; that making the choice to sit in a dark room and engage with dedicated storytellers should be rewarded with an experience that leaves a lasting impression and stimulates meaningful dialogue, and Anon(ymous) was no exception.
Our ISB performers, both onstage and backstage, demonstrated their passion and talents to nearly full houses during each of the three performances and I could not have been more impressed with their dedication and professionalism. But don't take my word for it, let's hear directly from them!
Mmala M, grade 9, "Pascal"
"My experience in Anon(ymous) was blissful and honestly a blessing! In the first stages of production, I was new and didn't know many in the ensemble, but as time went by, I found myself laughing together with my cast mates, learning new things about acting and the play itself. I feel emotional when looking back at this opportunity that I had as I know that I can never relive it. Anon(ymous) has been engraved into me, and I know that it will always act as a pillar of support, friendship, and learning."
Khushi C, grade 10, "Nemasani"
"The cast and crew gave their Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to Anon(ymous), and the result was a beautiful and emotional production. I feel a bit pensive now that the show is done, but very grateful for the experience. Cementing myself into the character, joking around with my cast mates, and being a part of the high-energy show made me happy."
Ray K, grade 12, "Senator, Mr. Zyclo, Ensemble"
"Anon(ymous) was a phenomenal experience. In my final year here at ISB, working with new, passionate cast mates is just as exciting as it was back in freshman year. Through this process, I have once again grown as an artist, and as a teammate to those around me. If Anon(ymous) is any indication, the future of theater at ISB is a bright one. I hope that the community continues to support this art form that we, the students, love so much."