Behind the Scenes of STC’s Anastasia

As October neared its end, the Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) held its annual fall musical.

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By Ryan Radwan

The Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) held its annual fall musical on October 25, 27, and 28. Chosen by SLATE, the executive board that organizes and runs STC, Anastasia was brought to life through the collaboration of 10 crews: art, band, cast, choir, costumes, lights and sound, makeup and hair, props, stage, and tech.

As always with STC productions, there were several moving parts and backstage responsibilities needed for the show to be successful. “Most of the creative work was done by the technical supervisors, [seniors] Daniel [Murdoch] and Petra [Dijur], as well as the dance choreographers and [senior] August [Petry]. They oversaw much of the day-to-day creative vision and ensured that everyone was adhering to the vision that August had in mind for the show,” junior and Producer Rayen Zhou said.

All of the crews in STC had to work extremely hard to put the show together, often staying late after school nearly every day for a month and a half. “An unbelievable amount of time was put into the show,” junior and Music Director Esayah Edghill said. “For me, [the Band crew] had rehearsals every day, for as long as we possibly could, which is at least 10 hours per week. That doesn’t account for the time spent planning the learning order or annotating our librettos outside of rehearsals, and the late-night calls organizing rehearsals with other crews.”

The producers not only had to handle the logistics of the show but also had to workshop the actual aspects of the production in preparation for show day. Since many students were collaborating to make the musical possible, it was key that the work of each crew lined up with all the others. “I think that you can have a lot of individual parts that work really well. But it’s about bringing them together and making sure they all match,” senior and Music Director Alexander Hinchcliffe said. “You can have bands that play everything amazing on their own, but if they don’t know how to work with a singer who’s going to be up there and isn’t going to be perfectly following the tempo, [so] we need to adjust for that.” 

Along with working on the specifics of the show, STC leaders also spent time to acknowledge the Stuyvesant faculty. “We wanted to show our appreciation for the teachers, counselors, APs, and staff who support us every day, so we wrote them individual letters by hand and gave them free tickets to see our show,” junior and Producer Dale Heller said.”We thought this was a small but meaningful gesture to thank them.”

However, putting on the show did not come without its challenges. Despite early preparation efforts that took place before school even began, there was ultimately not much time to produce the musical. “Because STC works on such a fast schedule, the time crunch is always the biggest challenge. We had only a month and a half to put Anastasia together,” Heller said. 

This time crunch was largely due to the sheer amount of work that had to be put in to make the show possible, as essentially everything that is required for STC musicals is student-made rather than bought. “The hardest part is really just reporting on an entire show in four or five weeks, which includes making sets from scratch, painting sets from scratch, making costumes from scratch,” senior and Executive Producer August Petry said.

Anastasia was also a particularly complex and difficult musical to recreate, especially in terms of dancing. With several different types of dance being showcased, there was a variety of choreography that had to be accounted for. “There’s a ballet scene at one point. There are all of these really amazing polka interludes and dance breaks,” Hinchliffe said. “The choreo for the show is insane. It was a massive [task] learning all of that, teaching all of that, and making sure it was all coordinated, but it was so worth it.” 

Along with choreography, set design was a major part of the play. STC experimented with new ideas this year to make the show as realistic as possible. “The tech crew, responsible for set designs, tried a novel creation: the train. With moving mechanics, the train was a centerpiece in the train scenes. While the train was certainly a focal point, it is important to realize other elements of the set design that tied the whole piece together, including the stunning cart, grand pillars, practical tables, and the picturesque fountain,” Zhou said.

Despite these challenges and responsibilities, the producers and directors were able to effectively guide their teams and kindle new bonds among STC participants. “Even though it may seem like the large cast size would make it harder to feel unified, this was definitely not the case,” Zhou said. “I made some new friends and got to spend time with some old ones. The cast directors and ensemble directors worked to build a community, and I’m so grateful to have had the experience of working with everyone.”

Anastasia was also unique in the complexity behind putting on the show. The years following the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a relatively smaller scale of production and reception compared to years prior, and this year’s musical marked the return of a larger-scale play that attracted greater audiences. “I think Anastasia is unique from other STC productions in several ways, starting with the sheer scale of the production. We have not had a production of this scale set post-COVID. And we’re really grateful for the opportunity to have such full sets, such complex costumes, and a full musical score,” Petry said. “We essentially sold out our Friday and Saturday shows, something we haven’t really done before. We had a very, very, very strong audience reception [that we’re also] grateful for.” 

The STC production drew the Stuyvesant student body together, creating a community that included both those involved in making the show and those who watched from the audience.  “It’s special how you have a high school body of STEM students who are excited to see a musical,” Petry said.

Producing Anastasia was a complex process that while tiring, was ultimately a rewarding experience for all those involved. “It’s a lot of stress and exhaustion to constantly output hard work for a month and a half straight and balance that with school and extracurriculars,” Edghill said. “But we made it through, and the shows definitely made the hours of lost sleep and stress worth it.”