HPHS Students Transport Audiences ‘Into the Woods’

Audiences traveled Into the Woods with Highland Park High School theater students Mar. 1 through 3 during the school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical.

The production was a more immersive experience than traditional shows in the high school’s Palmer Auditorium. The stage was inside an orchestra ensemble room and surrounded by seats on all sides, creating an intimate setting that transported viewers into the enchanted forest. 

Everyone had a good seat, but there were fewer of them – the production had already sold out online by opening day.  

“The audience is so close. That ramps the nerves up of the performers because when you look out, you’re seeing somebody who’s five feet away from you,” director Tyler Perring said. “It just takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of work to be comfortable enough to do that. And these kids worked just incredibly hard to make that happen.”

The musical was months in the making. Auditions for Into the Woods were in December, and students learned their music before Christmas. Cast members practiced several days a week starting in January, and were at rehearsal until 9 or 10 p.m. every day the week before the show.

The time investment was worth it, said Esra Melech, a sophomore who played the Baker’s Wife. Melech said she hoped audience members found themselves as involved in the story as its actors.

“This is the most intimate show I’ve ever done. I’ve never been this close to my audience” she said. “It’ll be a fun experience because you’ll get to kind of interact with them. And they’re kind of a part of it if they’re that close.” 

Missing from this production were elaborate costumes. Instead, the characters were represented by different items that might be found in an attic or trunk by children at play. Cinderella’s stepsisters wore ruffles, and Little Red had a cloak. It was up to the 19 cast members to transform into their characters, and to the 12 crew members to help viewers imagine their place in the story.

“It’s a very unique take on the show,” Perring said. “I’ve never seen another production like this.”

Junior Zoe Zaner, who played Little Red’s grandmother and the giant, said the format of Into the Woods made the production a learning experience for its performers.

“We’re doing something that’s totally different than anything we’ve ever done before. And I hope that our school and our community get to see really how incredible this department is and are talented actors are,” she said. “And also, I hope that they just get to enjoy the story. It’s a very great story. It has a fantastic message.”

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One thought on “HPHS Students Transport Audiences ‘Into the Woods’

  • March 6, 2024 at 9:32 pm

    It was a great performance ! The Highland Park has amazing vocalist, and actors! Not wanting to miss this one!


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