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From the ITF Main Stage: Into the Woods

The stage of Hoboken High Schools' Into the Woods.

At the heart of high school theatre excellence, the International Thespian Festival (ITF) main stage presents a platform for young talents from around the country to shine. This summer, Thespian Troupe 7268 from Hoboken High School continues that tradition as they perform Into the Woods.

When a humble baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child due to a witch’s curse, the two set off to break the spell. But in the end, the consequences of their actions have unintended results that will haunt the kingdom forever. Into the Woods is a timeless yet rare modern classic from James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim that weaves the Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters into an enchanting and touching story.

EdTA chatted with troupe director Derek Kinnear to get a peek behind the curtain.

1. Why this show? What was the spark or idea behind choosing it?

When looking at the shows we produced in the past, I noticed we hadn’t tackled any Sondheim musicals. All the shows we have produced lately are very contemporary, and I wanted the students to taste a more classic show while keeping it relevant.

2. How did you involve your students in the creative process and decision-making for the show?

One of our cast members designed and constructed nearly all of our props while the whole cast worked on the set. Students helped inform the blocking of each scene and made sure that the blocking was consistent. All ideas are heard and weighed in terms of how effectively they will help to either tell the story or entertain the audience.

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The cast of Hoboken High Schools' Into the Woods.

3. Got a fun rehearsal moment that’s helping you prep?

Before each performance, our cast gathers to hold hands, silently focus, get our mindset locked in, and ready as an ensemble to perform.

During the rehearsal process, we were also faced with the very difficult task of moving a large and heavy set piece across our theatre space. Our students unanimously determined to make the move, and together, planned a path and worked through the difficulties to make the move happen. It was a great bonding experience for everyone involved and put us all in a confident mindset.  

4. How do you balance the educational aspects with the artistic demands of directing a high school production?

For this production, the students were encouraged to research the intricacies of their characters, their character arcs, the lyrics and their relationship to the music, and all the clever and mature content hidden within. They then brought all their findings to the rehearsal process and collaborated to create a cohesive, elevated performance.

into the woods web photo

5. What's one piece of advice you'd share with troupes hoping to make main stage next year?

Make sure your cast has a close bond. The energy they were able to bring to rehearsals and the excitement/adoration they had for the show itself carried over to the audience. It’s important that your cast and crew like and respect the material they are working on and have a firm concept of what they aim to convey to the audience.

6. What do you hope the audience takes away from your show, and why is this important to you?

Our hope is the audience enjoys the show overall, but also takes our message of the show – no one is alone – into the world. We set out to portray the most human conditions in our characterization so that audiences could see aspects of themselves in the stories and remember that we have to face our problems head-on to propel past them.

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