Advanced Performance Studies showcases students’ acting talent with in-person performance


Assistant Features Editor Milla Ben-Ezra ’22, Taylor Dees ’21, Ford McDill ’21, Maddie Boudov ’21, Emery Genga ’21 and Alon Moradi ’21 strike poses outside out Munger Science Center following their successful production.

Student actors in the Advanced Performance Studies course performed Act 1 of  “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” outside Munger Science Center on May 26.

Written by Christopher Durang, the Tony Award-winning comedy follows the relationships between three adult siblings living outside Philadelphia. Performing Arts Teacher Michele Spears directed the outdoor production and set up the performance area with the help of Performing Arts Teachers Rees Pugh and Aaron Martin.

Spears said COVID-19 and the recent return to school informed her choice to put on “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which actor Alon Moradi ’21 suggested.

“For our final project, I asked the class what they wanted to work on,” Spears said. “We had just been allowed to come back on campus and everyone was feeling the joy of reconnecting. The class wanted to do something light, comedic and ensemble-based.”

Spears said the opportunity to explore a new performance format following over a year of digital classes was thrilling.

“The performance was delightful,” Spears said. “The chance to do live in-person theatre again was exhilarating for the performers and for the audience. [It was] the perfect way for the class to end the year.”

Audience member Shanti Hinkin ’22 said she found her peers’ production consistently engaging and amusing.

“The actors were so phenomenal and I found myself throwing my head back laughing throughout the whole play,” Hinkin said. “I have so much love for [Harvard-Westlake] Performing Arts, and being able to see a live show for the first time since the pandemic was such an amazing experience that I didn’t think I’d have until next year.”

Moradi, who played Vanya in the show, said he was able to revive his pre-pandemic zeal while rehearsing and performing in the play.

“To me, the performance more than anything felt like a release from the high-intensity work we had been doing for so much of the year, in addition to being a big sigh of relief,” Moradi said. “We approached things far more in the manner of high stakes connection and comedic timing rather than any sort of commentary, language or physical-based acting. Even though we were somewhat underrehearsed, it turned out to be a deeply enjoyable and organic experience for all.”

Hinkin noted the importance of the event as a final chance to celebrate the graduating seniors’ growth in performing arts.

“The class of ’21 performers are such a talented group, especially [the Advanced Performance Studies] class, and it was such a treat to see them get a proper send-off,” Hinkin said. “It’s been a hard year for performing artists, and I am so elated [that] they got to leave with a performance that organic and hilarious.”