The Drama World You Don’t See

Backstage at an RMHS Drama Club production


Annie McConnell ('22), Orbit Contributor

On April 29, 2022, behind the stage in the PAC, students rushed to apply makeup and put on costumes. The large black room holds a home for many drama students, club members, and drama teacher Mrs. Cunha’s office. On every wall, there resides playbills, college destination flags, and signs from past productions. The large black painted room is an entirely different world compared to the rest of RMHS.

For most, the knowledge of the RMHS drama club is limited to ideas of strange costumes, Chili’s nights, and their home–the PAC; aka The William E. Endslow Performing Arts Center. To set the scene,  the Drama Club was about to put on their opening night of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

This production will be the very last of the 2021-2022 school year, for many seniors the end is bittersweet, but for underclassmen, it just excites them for the fall production. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a musical based on a book by Roald Dahl. The story follows the endeavors of three farmers whose main goal throughout the story is to kill the character Mr. Fox. On the stage, the hard work done by the drama club is put on a showcase for all who pay the five-dollar fee.

Behind the scenes there is a whole separate world.


However, all that one can see from the audience is the drama students dancing, singing, and acting on the stage. Behind the scenes there is a whole separate world. For many, the play does not necessarily begin at showtime, but instead about three hours prior.




Around the time of four-thirty to five o’clock, drama students begin to pour into the backstage rooms. Students run around applying animal makeup and begin to put on costumes. Over the span of fifteen minutes, the number of students doubles in size, while the room seemed to clog up with people. It seems as though everyone has a specific job to do and is on a mission to finish it.

It seems as though everyone has a specific job to do and is on a mission to finish it.

Every five to ten minutes, stage manager Emelia Burns (‘23) will announce when mics, makeup, costumes, and scene practices will be. She seems to be keeping everything on track, making sure fellow drama students will be prepared and on time for the show. She always is taking into account what is going on throughout the whole room to remind students to put on a tail, bunny ears, or even to finish applying makeup. In many ways, she seems to be the voice of reason for fellow students. 

When one exits the large clutter-filled black room to the wings of the stage there is just as much work being done out there. Students, faculty, and parents alike put final touches on set pieces and clean the stage and its surroundings. “They have already swept the wings and mopped the wings to make sure it’s all safe and that nothing is on the ground,” Burnes said. “This is just stuff that we finished today in G block, which was stressful.”


At around the time of five-thirty most, if not all, drama students have arrived and are partaking in several different tasks, like putting on and adjusting mics, and double and triple-checking that props and set pieces are in the correct location. All students have their makeup ready to go with different variations of mice, moles, and foxes around. Tails and ears are adjusted and set to perfection. 

What makes Fantastic Mr. Fox different from past plays is the artistic liberty that the wardrobe crew could take compared to most plays. In most productions, Mrs. Trites helps out with creating the costumes, but not for this production. The wardrobe crew and parent helpers had much more creative freedom to see what would work for each character and how to design costumes.

Tails and ears are adjusted and set to perfection. 

One of the students in the lead wardrobe, Ellen Richards (‘23), embraced the challenge of being granted more freedom when it came to costumes. “So, for the show, we had a lot more creative freedom by ourselves to help put together the costumes, so it was a challenge, but it was also really fun,” Richards exclaimed.


The time is about six-forty-five when stage manager Emelia Burns yells a final announcement to the cast and crew to signal for the fight call. You may be wondering what is a fight call? Well, there is a specific scene where a tree falls right at the end of act one, so the cast and crew practice the tree fall scene a few times before the beginning of the show. 

Though many would believe at this point the cast or crew would be suffering from the nerves of opening night jitters, that does not seem the case. Isabella Boyden (‘25) makes it clear that pre-show nerves are a thing of the past. “I used to be anxious before I went on stage like it wouldn’t hit me until I was like in the wings,” Boyden says. “But then you just realize that it’s fine.”

…each member of the drama club stands in a circle and silently squeezes each other’s hands one at a time.

Then right before the show, at seven-ten, on Main Street next to guidance, all the drama club members gather to give senior speeches, practice diction, and projection, and promptly mentally prepare everyone before the show. The very last group activity done before the show will begin is when each member of the drama club stands in a circle and silently squeezes each other’s hands one at a time. After that, the show begins.


The wings of the stage are silent but crowded. Everyone is waiting for their cues to bring a prop on stage or say a line. The large cluttered black room is empty with all the cast and crew out doing their tasks. One of the parent helpers, Susan Brown, stays, steaming costumes, making sure tails are in the correct place, and helping cast members with costume malfunctions. 

For many of the cast who are animals, she and other members of the wardrobe crew seem to be lifesavers. “So, tonight we steamed all of the costumes to get them ready for the show, so that they were all ready to go and just pinning people, sewing things back on, some fur had fallen off and it’s just little minor fixes that we have to do,” Mrs. Brown shared.

One thing that has become clear throughout the night is how involved parents are. Many drama students joke about so-called “Set-build dads,” who are responsible for making sure the set is safe enough to be used. 

Josie Feltus (‘22), the Student Lighting Designer, tells of how parents are extremely eager to be involved in the drama program. “Parents are a huge part of everything, parents volunteer for everything, and backstage.”


As everyone takes their final bows for the closing moments at the end of opening night, students rush back in. Some run around asking about plans for after the show and others quickly remove costumes and makeup. The general feeling in the room is excitement, haste, and satisfaction with the conclusion of the first show.

The general feeling in the room is excitement, haste, and satisfaction…

Though, since Fantastic Mr. Fox is a show meant for younger audiences that means that at the very end there will be a meet and greet for the kids. Different cast members are grouped into their animal families and are sent off to meet the kids who wait excitedly to meet them.

The feeling around the room is pride over all of the hard work put into the show. Evie Howell (‘22) talks of her delight over the outcome of the first show. “I think the best part was hearing the kids kind of in the audience react and audibly be like oh no! Like I heard a little kid yell and be so worried and so invested and I thought that that was adorable, so I’m very happy that we had kids that were so interested in this.”