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What’s it like to be back on stage at Mayfield? Our Theatre Director gives us a “Clue”...

It’s been 19 months since Mayfield’s Pike Auditorium theatre went dark, and although the recent All Arts Night briefly brought audiences back in person, yesterday was the first time Mayfield theatre returned in earnest, with the whodunit murder-comedy “Clue.” We sat down with Theatre Director Maryanne Householder to hear about the lead-up to this long-awaited opening night... 
Why did you choose the play "Clue" as your first play back in Pike Auditorium?
This was actually the show that was slated for last year's fall play, when I was thinking we would be back in person. And then when things started to look like they weren't going in that direction, I ended up switching to “When Shakespeare's Ladies Meet,” but I have had this show on my radar for a very long time. It was relevant to students and also families from every generation, because it's such a beloved board game, but I just knew that this was the show I was going to do this year, regardless of the parameters that the show has. 

Speaking of parameters, what were the biggest challenges in mounting a play with health and safety restrictions still in place?
The biggest challenge is definitely the mask factor. I don't mind it, to be honest, because it gives the actors a chance to really work on other facial expressions and developing character and storyline and body language. So I think it was just a new way of looking at theatre. Some of the things in the show that were more specific were anything that involved eating or drinking—you'll be seeing a lot of straws in the production because we have to keep our masks on, of course, and I want to make sure everybody is safe and healthy. We've definitely developed some protocols that I'm going to keep, regardless of COVID and the pandemic, like fans in dressing rooms, and sanitizing everything, and using the dressing room as a place to purely change and not hang out, and other things that really make the place safer. [Retaining] those health and safety guidelines moving forward is going to be the best case scenario for all of us.

How was the energy among the performers/tech theatre team as you began this project? 
This has definitely been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We've gone through so much together and there's been just amazing memories and each day gets better and better with the production. I have a student from every grade level represented...So it's been really nice to work with everyone across the board and just really be able to develop characters and dive into emotions and collaborate. We were nervous to be back in person because it had been so long, but the positive emotions really outweighed the secondary negative emotions because we were just so excited to be back in person.

You have a new technical director, Paul Cales. How has it been working with him and how has he been engaging with the students?
Paul’s new to Mayfield, but he's not new to my life! We've been working together since 2007. His wife actually was my theatre teacher and director, and she is the reason why I am in theatre. And I know everything I know and have such a strong foundation because she was such a phenomenal teacher. And he was actually the technical director of productions when I was working with her. So we've had a very long working relationship and it's been so much fun, and creating this masterpiece with him has been amazing. I'm so excited to see the show—our vision—come to life. I mean, all of this started out on a white board and here we are today with a mini-mansion on stage! So I think that's pretty spectacular and very special. Seeing him interact with students is something I've known for years...there's just such care and compassion when it goes into working with students and working in theatre. So it's just been an all-around amazing experience.

What have been the surprises in this process? And what do you want the audiences to walk away with?
One of the most pleasant surprises is having a student Assistant Director (Sofia Olona ‘23). I've never had that opportunity before at Mayfield. It has been so amazing to collaborate and work with someone so closely on this project and really have somebody to bounce ideas off and brainstorm. Having an incredible Stage Manager (Isabela Esparza ‘22) like I do this year has also been very beneficial and really helps everybody stay organized and on top of things. And then I think just collaborating with the students in general, I really give them the freedom to make choices, make suggestions, and really talk through the trial-and-error process of why things are the way they are and what can we change...It’s just been an all around great collaborative process. And what I want the audience to walk away with is that even though this is not Broadway, this is our special place to create magic. And I hope that they see all of the hard work and time and effort and every little detail that we've put into this production, whether it's cast- or crew-related. I just hope that they enjoy being back in Pike with all of us!
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.