Aspen High School students stage a satirical take on testing
If You Go …
What: ‘Testing, Testing,’ presented by Aspen High School
Where: Black Box Theatre
When: Wednesday, Jan. 11 through Friday, Jan. 13, 6 p.m.
How much: $5/students; $10/adults
Tickets: Available at the door
Rather than freaking out or cramming during the often stress-filled week before final exams at Aspen High School, a group of theater newcomers are inviting their classmates to laugh at the absurdity of high-stakes testing.
The student production of “Testing, Testing,” a two-act satire, opens tonight and runs through Friday at the Black Box Theatre. Drama teacher Logan Carter’s fall theater class has been working on it since September.
The play tackles familiar aspects of public school testing: the first piece is about a girl whose test gets derailed by distractions and anxiety; the second examines the desperation that leads to cheating. Both push the scenarios into absurd and surreal terrain.
“For students, they’re really relatable situations,” Mason deBoef, a sophomore who plays the cheater, Scott, said before a recent rehearsal at the Black Box. “If you’re a student, you’re familiar with all of this.”
The student actors have been able to draw on their own experiences to get into their characters.
“It’s the week before testing and we’re seeing all the extremes in the classroom — I like that it has some truth to it,” said freshman Layla Goldberg, who plays the overwhelmed test-taker Mindy in the play, who is distracted by a growing chorus of tapping pencils, yawns, coughs, burps and, eventually, hallucinations.
The three-night run of “Testing, Testing” is the culmination of the high school’s fall play class, which is in its third year of producing a student-run and -performed play for a paying audience. The class began the creative process for “Testing, Testing” in September, when students chose the play (other candidates included “The Gift of the Magi” and a drama about bullying). They’ve since taken on all aspects of putting up a theatrical production — from set design and construction to lighting, sound, costuming, marketing and makeup.
Carter is directing the play. But, as she put it: “It’s all completely student-driven. And that’s what’s exciting for me — that this is a class where they can learn each aspect.”
Most of the students in the 12-member cast and crew are newcomers to the theater.
“I’ve never been onstage before,” said junior Annie O’Keefe, who plays the villainous teacher Ms. Mock. “So this is new and I want to see if I can do it more, because it’s actually really fun.”
O’Keefe had worked behind the scenes on school plays in the past but has had a devilish good time playing a heartless teacher who administers a test like a drill sergeant.
“She’s mean and she’s sassy and I love her,” O’Keefe said. “I get to develop a character, which is totally new to me.”
Carter and her students are hoping that “Testing, Testing” might allow students to laugh at themselves and, maybe, not be too intimidated by next week’s finals and the looming alphabet soup of ACTs, SATs and TCAPs.
“At Aspen High School there’s a very stressful climate around testing and high scores,” Carter said. “We’re rated No. 1 (in Colorado) so the kids take it very seriously. Maybe this year we can go into finals week without kids passing out from stress.”
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