Voices singing “where I come from” fill the room as actors crowd the stage.
Each actor slowly goes down to the floor, and Anon gives his speech. The story begins, and the audience is taken on a journey.
At the end of this past fall semester, the theater class performed the play Anon(ymous) from December 1 through 3 at the elementary school auditorium. Directed by new theater teacher Antonio Anagaran, the preparation and performance of the play was also a journey into uncharted territory for many theater students.
For one, the play called for an ensemble cast with minimal props, meaning that everyone worked together to build the play. Many scenes required actors to perform as props and Anagaran challenged the actors to figure out how scenes should be staged. Anagaran said, “This is an impossible play to stage when you think in terms of film and television. It forces the artists involved to bring out the best of the art-form of theater.”
In the past, HBA theater class plays consisted of light-hearted themes and numerous props. Senior Page Oshiro was cast as Anon, the main character in Anon(ymous). She explained, “[At first], I didn’t really like [the play]. I thought it was too far out, a little too abstract.” Many cast members shared Oshiro’s concerns and were also skeptical as they worked on the play. Oshiro said, “A lot of the staging he left up to us—that was kinda challenging. I think at points it was getting frustrating because I thought it was [Mr Anagaran’s] job to stage stuff for us, but then I realized he was trying to teach us how to be more creative, more independent as artists and teach us how to do our own stuff. I think he did a very good job with pushing us.”
To prepare for his role as an Indian restaurant owner, junior Dorian Ho said, “I had to look up videos on refugees to try and actually get into my character.” Oshiro said, “A lot of us were doubtful in the beginning because it was so different from all the plays we’ve done in the past, but Mr. Anagaran did a good job in his vision. It all came together in the end.”
Anagaran brings with him a variety of teaching experiences. He was a teaching artist with the Community Arts Partnership, and the Usual Suspects Theater Company, both in Los Angeles, CA. Anagaran has also taught acting classes at the undergraduate and graduate level. Through teaching in prisons, Anagaran said he’s seen theater transform the actors themselves. “I have seen the power of theater to create community,” he explained. “Every cast I’ve worked with gets closer through the process. Those experiences show me that as long as we focus on the process, the result will be worthwhile.”
This is an impossible play to stage when you think in terms of film and television. It forces the artists involved to bring out the best of the art-form of theater. -Theater Teacher Antonio Anagaran
For Anon(ymous), seniors Paige Oshiro and Shalev Eckert shared the lead role of Anon and performed in alternating shows. Juniors Dorian Ho and Jalen Sur took turns to play Pascal and Ali. Math teacher Terence Li, who saw Ho play Pascal, said, “It was very surprising to me because I was able to see a different side of Dorian, and I think that he was easily the coolest character. Out of all the characters on the stage, who was the one you would want to hang out with? It would’ve been Dorian’s character Pascal because he was just the coolest guy.”
The abstract nature of the play was a positive point for Li. “I liked the play because it was very challenging,” he said. “I would say that I didn’t understand everything and that’s okay I think the fact that there was a lot left up to the interpretation of the audience, I think that made the play stronger because my brain had to work to fill in the gaps to stay engaged.”
Audience member senior Ryan Su said, “I think the meaning of the play was that everybody has a story to tell because everybody’s life is rich with detail.” Li added, “I thought all the actors were really impressive. It never felt amateur. I was watching something that young people just worked hard at, and they rehearsed, and they brought what they did. Each actor played a unique character and made the audience believe they were who they were.”
Anagaran has many goals for the theater class and wants to continue to challenge his students. “I hope that the theater class can pursue scripts that have stood the test of time” he said, “and those involved develop a passion for theater as a force of redemption, justice, and hope. I also desire to continue to build on the foundations of theater: collaboration, artistic process, voice, scene work, and character development.”