Changes to drama department

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was produced by former theater teacher George Bennett.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” was produced by former theater teacher George Bennett.

The theater department is under new management this year as Noelle Viñas assumes the part-time position. Former theater teacher George Bennett now works at South County High School.There are now only two theater classes instead of the previous five and the department will no longer offer IB theater classes.

There was a period of confusion at the end of last year while theater students wondered if Bennett would continue teaching and, if not, who would take his place. Many were frustrated with the current state of the theater program but were hesitant to accept change for fear that the theater department may fall apart.

“I wasn’t sure where [the theater department] was going,’ sophomore Kevin Arevalo said. “It felt like we hadn’t accomplished much aside from the plays we had last year. It was also unclear whether Mr. Bennett was staying or not which made things more confusing.”

Even though the drama department has shrunk dramatically, Viñas plans to put on two mainstage productions this year and hopes to do other smaller projects.

“First we have to make sure that the basics happen, so a play and a musical,” Viñas said. “And once I know that we can do those things, then we can put in all the extras.”

One such essential is organizing the Theater Arts classes. When Viñas came to AHS in August, she found that all theater levels and types had been placed into one class. Theater Arts one students are attempting to learn with level four students. There isn’t a separate class for Technical Theater students either, even though it has a very different curriculum than Theater Arts.

“Those are supposed to be completely different classes so that’s… an issue,” Arevalo said.

Viñas is currently working with the counselors to divide the classes by level, but it can be difficult to rearrange a student’s schedule, let alone the schedules of the entire theater department.

“Everything [has] already been scheduled so it’s really hard,” Viñas said. “It’s all very new. I know some of the kids are confused or frustrated by the change over, confused or frustrated by the scheduling…but I am doing everything I can.”

Her current approach is to teach her classes the basics and then build on that. The goal is to make sure everyone has a communal understanding of certain theatrical ideas so that, despite a student’s previous experience or lack thereof, Viñas can introduce them to new concepts and ideas that will challenge everyone.

“You’re going to be learning things you already know, which I think is the main problem,” Arevalo said.

Although students are unhappy with certain side effects, many welcome Viñas’ new leadership and her determination to energize and revive the drama department.

“I think [Viñas’ involvement] is just wonderful,” senior Wilson Tosta said. “Just seeing Ms. Vinas, she’s just so energetic, [and has] so much potential.”