Creative Arts Academy Spotlight: Q+A with Seniors and Freshmen Cutthroat Thespians

November’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical featured nearly 40 Upper School thespians. Performing on stage is never easy, but with each experience comes lessons learned and confidence gained. For seasoned seniors Priya Merchant and Emma Desserault, the musical marked one of their last performances as a Cutthroat. For freshmen Ida Belle Gorby and Elyse Duffield, the production was her first as an Upper Schooler. We sat down to learn what they’ve learned, why they love doing musicals, and some favorite memories from the SVCS stage.

Close friends Priya Merchant ‘22 and Emma Desserault ‘22 have performed in almost every production offered to them since joining SVCS in Middle School (Priya in 6th, Emma in 7th). In Middle School, there were the One-Act Play Festivals (now the Drama Fest), as well as Peter Pan (Priya), Madagascar, Jr., and Aladdin, Jr.. In the Upper School, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Romeo + Juliet, Urinetown, Peter and the Starcatchers, Lés Miserablés, The Book of Will, and of course, Legally Blonde: The Musical. Outside of school, both have performed in numerous community performances. To say the stage is their second home is a pretty accurate statement, and they have had quite a run pursuing their passions for all things theater at SVCS. For freshmen Ida Belle Gorby and Elyse Duffield, both seasoned thespians themselves, Legally Blonde marked their inaugural show as a Cutthroat. 

Q: Out of all the performances you've done at SVCS, which has been your favorite? 
Priya: The Book of Will was my favorite show because I really connected with my peers onstage, many of whom I had spent my whole theatrical career with and were soon leaving for college. So, this was a super impactful experience.”
Emma: “My favorite role I’ve played at SVCS was Madame Thenardiér in Lés Miserablés. I loved this role because Mr. Thenardiér was played by my best friend Priya; I loved just playing off of her and matching her energy. All of the scenes and songs that the Thenardiérs are in are also very upbeat and lively which is an interesting contrast considering the morbidness of the show. 
Q: What have you learned by doing these productions? 
Priya: From doing shows at Sun Valley Community School, I have developed a greater confidence in myself. I strengthened my public speaking skills while learning how to work creatively and collaboratively with a group of people.
Emma: I’ve learned so much from participating in theater productions. I have learned time management, memorization skills, confidence, teamwork, and so much more. I attribute a lot of who I am to the theater community in Sun Valley and the skills and lessons I have learned through theater.

Q: Is there something you love about doing musicals? 
Priya: I love truly embracing a character and a story, while working with people who embrace their own character’s stories. It is so gratifying when everyone is present, knows the material, and is able to push the storyline further than it has ever gone before.
Emma: I love doing musicals because I think storytelling through song is extremely powerful and compelling. I also just find it really fun to slip into a different world for a while and be another person.
Q: How do you each feel about this being your last musical at SVCS? 
Priya: I am very sad that this is my last year and my last musical at SVCS! I will miss all the feelings of performing for an audience, my friends who have been on this journey with me, and the amazing directors and choreographers who live in this valley. I will take with me all the laughter, the tears, the adrenaline, the 12-hour days, and the gratitude I have for the people in this valley who have guided me. 
Emma: It felt very strange that this year was my last musical with SVCS. I haven’t fully realized that I won’t be in next years’ musical yet! I am definitely very sad that I have almost completed my theater career at the school, but I am also excited to enter a new chapter of my life. I think what I will miss most is that feeling when you know you’ve done something really well. Whether that be a scene, song, or even a whole show. There’s really nothing better than that feeling. When I think back on my time in the theater, I will most likely think about the connections and friendships I have made throughout the years.

Next up on stage…Ida Belle Gorby and Elyse Duffield who both played the role of sorority sisters in Legally Blonde. They fill us in on nerves, the laughter, making new friends, and how excited they are to do the next production. 

Q: Were you nervous about doing an Upper School production? 
Ida Belle: I was a little nervous but I was really happy that a lot of friends were doing it with me. 
Elyse: I was a little nervous to do an Upper School show because I have never done anything like it before. It was such a great experience! 

Q: How would you describe the experience? 
Ida Belle: “I loved it! I had a blast. I made a lot of new friends.” 
Elyse: I am so glad to have met new people and gotten to know others even more. I am planning to do all of the SVCS performances. Legally Blonde was such a great experience, and I am so glad to have been a part of it.

Q: What were some of the challenges?
Ida Belle: The dancing was difficult and sometimes the rehearsals were really long, but it was all worth it.”
Elyse: The Irish Jig was difficult for me to learn because there were so many specific timing things that were hard to get right.

Q: Any particular moment during the production that stood out to you? 
Ida Belle: I don’t think that I will forget all of the funny moments on stage that we all had to hold back laughing! I am so excited for the next show.” 
Elyse: I will never forget when Ben (Larroquette, US music teacher) yelled up at Kevin (Wade ‘06, US theater teacher and show director) and they had their scene. It was amazing to see my teachers on stage and dancing. It was such a funny moment.