The Class of 2020’s Final Bow
Above image: Zoe Gordon, Dylan Fineman, Sydney Nhambiu, Khaja Daniels, Ethan Paul, Nola Sloan, Talia Hartman-Sigall, Zach Redhead-Leconte, and Jack Mason in Packer’s past productions of the Drowsy Chaperone and Into the Woods (Credit: Talia Hartman-Sigall)
Every spring, the Pratt becomes an epicenter of action in preparation for the spring musical; students endure hours of rehearsal, frantically run lines, and scramble to get down blocking, all so that the annual show can be a hit. The process is daunting to newcomers, but every year the veteran seniors enter the madness with smiles on their faces, ready to put on one final show at Packer. The actors in the Class of 2020 were no exception.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the switch to online learning has resulted in the cancellation of the musical’s performances. In the immediate future, no audience will be able to enjoy Packer’s rendition of the frothy musical comedy, Hello Dolly!
“It is absolutely heartbreaking,” said Talia Hartman-Sigall (’20) when asked about the cancellation. “After eight years and fifteen shows on the Pratt stage, we don’t get to have our last one. It’s about not getting to have those last moments in the Pratt.”
Despite their sadness, however, the seniors are taking this experience as a way to look back on their time in the Packer spotlight and find a silver lining.
“It has made me reflect more on all the stuff I have done throughout my experience at Packer,” said Dylan Fineman (’20), a longtime member of the Packer theater community. “It made me appreciate the time a lot more. It’s easy to sit and think about what I did not get to do, but I have been focusing on the great things I did.”
Izabella Lizarrazo (’20) shared a similar sentiment: “Even though the production will not be happening, I can acknowledge that the experience is what we are left with now.”
Zach Redhead-Leconte (‘20), another longtime veteran of the program, said “To me, it’s not even a single memory that makes the entire experience memorable. It’s more a feeling that I get when I’m with these close-knit groups of people backstage. When you experienced happy points, the entire cast and crew could feel that. The energy you feel on stage is felt all around. We are all literally in this together.”
Zach also shared that his final role on the Packer stage as Peter in Peter and the Starcatcher is among his favorite roles because it pushed him to work with a character unlike any he had ever played before.
Sydney Nhambiu (’20) reflected on taking a risk and joining the theater program in her sophomore year: “It had always felt like this curtain over everyone in the theater community where I wasn’t exactly sure if I was allowed to join unless I was super into theatre,” she shared. “I decided to take the leap my sophomore year and do it, and it was such an eye-opening experience. I had no idea that theater could touch so many people like that, and especially seeing my friends and people I grew to love during the shows and how it touched them. Ultimately it became a lot more to me. It taught me a lot. I have learned to love Broadway and off-Broadway shows and the way that art and creativity impact people’s lives.”
Sydney fondly recalled the moments where the casts got to bond as the most magical part of her entire experience. “There were so many times where someone would say something hilarious, and we would all break character. Mr. Boag would even get in on it. It’s those types of moments that made me love theater, and I’m really going to miss them.”
Dylan shared that the program’s past seniors shaped many of his most memorable moments.
“Any time interacting with the seniors in my cast was always super special. Just seeing them work and learning from them and looking up to them. Interacting with people older than me and getting to see maybe what I would turn out to be when I was their age,” he shared.
Dylan advises current members of the theater community to “never take a second of it for granted. I hope that they understand it’s a privilege to be able to perform and create such an intimate piece of art. I hope that they are able to say that after four years or however, many years they have left that they have absolutely zero regrets with how their time was spent.” Next year Dylan will be taking his talents to Boston University to get a BFA in acting.
Talia shared the importance of theater in her life, which she discovered while performing at Packer. After playing Marian Paroo in the Music Man in eighth grade, she became enamored by not only the production aspects of theater, but also the community it provided her with. That role fueled her motivation to pursue theater more seriously. Talia will be continuing her passion for theater at Northwestern University by studying theater.
Her favorite role she has played in the Pratt is the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. “Before I played the Baker’s Wife, I remember having a conversation with Mr. Boag and saying I wanted to work on my acting,” she shared. “I’m a singer more than anything else, but I felt like Baker’s Wife put me in that perfect position to grow. It catapulted me into a place where I love to work and get into the deep backstories of characters.”
More than anything, Talia expressed how much of a home the Arts Department has become during her time at Packer: “Amongst the students, there’s a great sense of camaraderie. Everybody is there for everyone to do their best. We all want to be there to watch everyone kill it all the time. I think it’s a place that has helped me develop a greater sense of who I am more so than anywhere else in the world.”
Izabella shared that the performing arts at Packer provided her with a space to grow over the past four years. She joined as a freshman with no prior experience in the performing arts loved it immediately. She cherished getting to play around with a comedic role like Gangster One in The Drowsy Chaperone in her sophomore year and enjoyed sharing the stage with her castmates.
However, her favorite role has been Irene Molloy in Hello Dolly! “Out of all the parts I got to play, she was the most challenging. I really enjoyed seeing her outlook on life and learning her story and going through the idea of first being stuck in life and then having a true shot at love. Going through that journey with her was interesting and so much fun,” she shared.
As the curtain closes on the Class of 2020’s moment in the spotlight, it seems they are going to miss everything from the cast bonding, the time with Mr. Boag rehearsing, or even just the “smell of the Pratt,” as Zach put it.
He said, “It brings that feeling of community and friendship because we have been in there for so long, and it has a huge place in all of our hearts.”
Saying goodbye is never easy, but their fellow cast mates and mentors are thankful for all of the wonderful time they have gotten to spend working with the members of the Class of 2020.
“I’m going to miss everything about them, from their constant support and immense talent to horrible jokes,” said Sofia Leaf (‘22). “I have learned so much from them; they are more than just friends to everyone in the shows, they are incredible mentors as well.”
“I’ll miss their brilliance and the things I find irritating just as I hope they will remember the things they love and find irritating about me. We’re in the memory business really. I hope they find the memories as nourishing as I find them,” said Head of the Arts Department, Ali Boag. “Everytime I do a show I always think of the past members of productions, so the seniors will haunt the process of Packer theater for a long time, and happily so.”
Needless to say the Pratt will not feel the same without their infectious joy and talent.