Huntington sophomores Maddie Haughwout and Danny Arias took well deserved bows following the final performance of the high school drama club’s spring musical, Once Upon a Mattress. The talented teenagers served as the show’s student directors and both earned the respect and admiration of the cast and crew.
Ms. Haughwout and Mr. Arias worked closed with Huntington English teacher, Michael Schwendemann, who is completing his 12th year as the drama club’s faculty advisor. He took both sophomores under his wing and taught them the ins and outs of life as a director.
“I helped out with the J. Taylor Finley Middle School musical and realized that I had a passion for directing,” Ms. Haughwout said. “So at the end of my freshman year, I turned up at Mr. Schwendemann’s room and expressed my interest. He was glad to take me aboard and also introduced me to Melissa Ingle, who was the student director before me and graduated in 2016. She’s been coaching me through this experience, giving me tips on becoming a better director.”
Ms. Haughwout was also the student director of last fall’s production of The Laramie Project. “Being a part of drama club is more than acting and learning dances and lines,” she said. “You become a family with the cast members. We all laugh together, we cry together and we celebrate together. The support among everyone is incredible and it’s something I would never trade for anything. Schwen and I also grew close. He’s an amazing director and will keep me involved whether it be with taking notes, improving the performances or letting me joke around with him.”
“Maddie will do anything asked of her, from appearing on stage to directing a scene,” Mr. Schwendemann said. “She is at every rehearsal ready to work. Her potential is unlimited. Her most difficult task will be finding a way to budget her time. You can’t be everywhere all the time. If she is able to accomplish that task the sky’s the limit both academically and as a part of the drama club.”
The teenager was right there in the auditorium or wherever the actors and Mr. Schwendemann happened to set up for rehearsals on any given day.
“Rehearsals became the thing I most looked forward to every day,” Ms. Haughwout said. “We either focus on sections or run the performance. The cast learns new things everyday as well. As a student director, I write down the blocking or the directions and movements for every scene. I take notes and share them with Mr. Schwendemann to get his opinion. I also fill in for students that may not be at a rehearsal. For Once Upon a Mattress, I was given the opportunity to direct ‘Man-to-Man Talk.’ It was absolutely wonderful to see my work come to life and grow. Working with the students is such a great experience.”
Preparing for any stage production is a grueling process for everyone concerned. “My nights would often be dedicated to drama club and towards the end of the musical, I’d joke that the auditorium was my new home,” Ms. Haughwout said. “But I never minded being there because it’s what I love doing. I’m only a sophomore, but I know that directing is what I want to pursue as a career. I feel passion towards it and it allows me to be creative.”
Ms. Haughwout plays flute with the high school’s junior band. She is studying Latin and taking a photography elective course in addition to the usual lineup of classes. This will be the fourth year she has participated in Huntington’s Relay For Life.
Huntington High School English teacher Kelly Krycinski encouraged Mr. Arias to get involved with the drama club last fall. So he auditioned for a part in The Laramie Project and landed a role.
The teenager didn’t audition for the spring musical for a variety of reasons, but Mr. Arias wanted to stay involved. “So I decided to talk to my friend who talked to Mr. Schwendemann and convinced him to let me student direct,” the sophomore said. “It was a fun experience and I interacted really well with Mr. Schwendemann as well as with the actors and Maddie. Rehearsals were fun and it wasn’t really time consuming.”
“Danny joined us late in the game but became a valuable part of the musical after doing a fine job on stage in The Laramie Project,” Mr. Schwendemann said. “He stepped in for sick cast members, helped set the stage and did all the tasks most people don’t enjoy and he did them all with a smile.”
Looking back now, Mr. Arias believes the many hours he devoted to his role and the musical was time well spent. “It was worth it because I made new friends and had a lot of great times at rehearsals,” he said.
Ms. Haughwout and Mr. Arias have both found a home with the high school drama club. “Both of these students made themselves an invaluable part of the production,” Mr. Schwendemann said.