Last Saturday brought with it the final showing of the student production of the Sound of Music. The last show of the spring production carries with it a special tradition: senior night, a public seeing-off to all of the show’s seniors. Seniors and teacher-directors take up the front of the stage after curtain call and address each other and the audience, often with choked voices and teary eyes. Some of the seniors have worked eight productions; meaning that they have been in every show since their freshman year. Others are leaving their last show as their first. Regardless of experience or position, each senior gets their own special goodbye, with recognition of their talents, character, and many happy memories. Teacher-director Cynthia Shaheen delivered the goodbyes this Saturday to seniors Jaime Faulkner, Rob Dixon, Andi Vitagliano, Katy Abbe, Dylan Freymuth, Tyler Danner, Logan Murphy, Ryan Healy, Aubrey Chaston, Manu Kondapi, and Lauren Farrow. Along with a heartfelt goodbye, the seniors all received a small gift and card.
Once the line of seniors had been passed through, the students took over the mic. They gave public thanks to their directors and their many parent helpers, without whom the production wouldn’t have been as successful. They presented several helpers with gifts and cards, but the most touching gift of the night was to the teacher-directors, with whom they had forged a close relationship. Cynthia Shaheen and her daughter, Ann Shaheen, affectionately referred to as “the Shaheens,” both received cards and special-made music boxes from the graduating seniors. The boxes each had a song from the Sound of Music: “Climb Every Mountain” and “The Sound of Music,” respectively. When the goodbyes were finished, the cast formed a reception line in the hallway, where the audience could speak with them about their performance; at that close range, it’s impossible to ignore the way that senior night has affected the graduating performers.
This is the part of the tradition that the audience is privy to, but behind the scenes, there are other rituals that take place. A tradition that involves the whole cast, the “senior circle” takes place in the back alley outside of the backstage, just before the last show. Seniors gather in a circle and hold hands, right over left, and bow their heads, while the directors go to each senior individually and remind them how important they are to the drama program. The directors tell the seniors about how strong they are as leaders, recall their impact in drama, and promise that their legacy will be continued in future productions. Sometimes, other student actors are called upon to recall an experience in which a senior has personally touched them. The pre-performance tradition also starts a lot of tears, which must be quickly brought under control in time for curtain. Junior Hayden Feller says that “Tears flow, but we have to put our chin up, put on a smile, and put on a show.” Feller has seen five senior nights, and next year he intends to stay in drama and witness his own. He says that the best part of senior night is seeing the emotional connections made with the seniors. “It’s pretty sad, but also pretty cool.”
Many seniors spend the night fighting tears, but the general attitude is one of happiness and nostalgia. If you can ever snag tickets to see the final show of the spring semester, I highly recommend it. It is amazing to witness the friendships forged in the drama program; strong friendships that last for years, spanning great distances. Our drama program holds some of the most talented, dedicated, and warm-hearted people, and seeing their relationships on senior night is absolutely inspiring.