From the early years of the Drama Club to the modern-day productions by the Janus Players, students at The Hun School have been testing their nerves and developing their talents as actors, producers, directors, and technical crew members for sixty years.
It all began in the fall of 1958, when the Drama Club emerged as a group of faculty and students who traveled to New York City to see Broadway and off-Broadway shows. Forty dollars was enough to get a Drama Club member seven trips to New York; tickets and transportation included.
The Drama Club produced its first full season in 1961 with two shows, The Killers and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Since this first season, decades of productions have followed. Dramas, comedies, and musicals have offered Drama Club members opportunities to hone their skills and entertain the community. From Hamlet to Hello Dolly, from Godspell to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (produced on the Mall), theatre productions have become a part of the fabric of The Hun School.
And now, as the auditorium, stage, and scene shop are scheduled for renovation and modernization next year, the Janus Players will be, once again, without a conventional stage. Sixty years after the beginning of the theater program, today’s Janus Players will have the opportunity to adapt their productions to non-traditional venues. Bill Esher, the current theatre director, says, “This investment in the future of the Arts is what keeps the spirit of the theatre alive. The collaboration is what moves us. In theatre, no one does it alone. The actors get the applause but the techs are the hidden heroes.”
“From the initial germ of the idea to the last night of performance, we take a professional-theatre approach to it,” explains Josh Robinson, technical director, who designs and stages The Hun School productions in partnership with Bill Esher. “Bill and I both come from regional theaters and we try to teach all sides of it: acting, scenery, lighting, sound.” Mr. Robinson is most at home in the scene shop, surrounded by drills and lumber and paint cans. “I think that staging next year’s shows is going to be a great experience for the students. We’re going to find new spaces: the James M. Byer ’62 Amphitheatre, outdoors, in-the-round, you name it. It’s an exciting time to be here. It’s a fun challenge.”
Mr. Esher continues this theme, “Theatre really does teach a lot about teamwork, collaboration, and responsibility. We like to provide the space for the students to try new things. How do you run a sound board? How do you mix light to create affect? How do you stage movement? We’re always trying things one way, then changing it. Can we make it better? Can it be more powerful? The theatre is a good place to take what didn’t work and change it, to make it work in a new way. In science, that’s called experimentation. In the Arts, that’s the norm. That’s how we get to success, and that’s what the students learn. We teach students to try things until they get the right solution. It’s design-thinking. That’s what the Arts are all about.”
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school. Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.