Paly Theater performs ‘Mystery, Murder and Monsters’

Arohi Bhattacharya, Senior Staff Writer

The Palo Alto High School Theater program is celebrating its intriguing virtual production Mystery, Murder and Monsters with its final performance Sunday afternoon.

Cast members of the play “She Kills Monsters” perform through Zoom as part of Palo Alto High School’s “Mystery, Murder and Monsters” production on Nov. 6. Junior Anneke Salvadori, who played Ms. White in “Clue”, says she will continue to use her experiences in performing virtually to her advantage for the future. “I think providing myself with more time to meet with actors would have been beneficial because we were all eager to learn, but don’t have the experience we expected,” Salvadori stated in a message to The Paly Voice. “I’m excited to see what opportunities we have in the spring to further our use of Zoom theater in a way that truly has never been done before.” Photo: Arohi Bhattacharya

The collection of fall productions include “Clue,” “Murder by Poe,” and “She Kills Monsters,” three separate plays all performed virtually — through Zoom.

“Clue,” based on the famous board game and movie, follows six guests as they try to figure out who killed Mr. Boddy, the owner of the mansion the guests were invited to. The show, rated for all ages, offers a smooth performance of characters interacting over Zoom, according to sophomore Mina Fry, who plays Yvette.

“I was worried about performing it virtually since ‘Clue’ is a show that would normally include lots of physical comedy and interaction onstage,” Fry stated in a message to the Voice. “However, I think we adapted well because everyone brought so much energy and expression and the show went really smoothly.”

The second play, “Murder by Poe,” recommended for “middle-school aged audiences and above, due to thematic elements of death and violence,” depicts a woman struggling to save herself from several different murderers in Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, all locked together in an eerie house in the woods during the height of a storm. 

Senior Jonathan Sneh, who played C. Auguste Dupin, said he is enjoying the benefits of working online, which included having more time on his own to work on his complex character during the rehearsal process.

“There were a lot of upsides: the rehearsals were generally short and so there wasn’t a lot of zoom fatigue,” Sneh said. “I had the opportunity to do a lot of character work on my own. Dupin is a very complicated guy and it was rewarding to ruminate on his motives and expressions.”

“She Kills Monsters” details a young girl’s journey through a 21st-century version of the online video game Dungeons and Dragons in order to learn more about the life of her deceased younger sister. 

Junior Ameer Ali, who plays Chuck in the performance, said that the transition to performing online was difficult, but once he performed once or twice, he became more comfortable with it.

“It’s been an interesting experience, because a lot of the aspects that make theater are gone when you do plays online,” Ali said. “However, since this isn’t the first time [performing on Zoom], I knew what to expect coming into it, and I feel like it positively impacted my performance because I had already acted on Zoom before.”

Junior Renee Vetter, who plays Lillith/Lilly in “She Kills Monsters,” expressed how tiring and repetitive practice performances can be before shows, but but said she enjoyed performing.

“For me, it was more difficult than I anticipated because I had so many things I had to juggle during the performance,” Vetter stated. “The practice performances leading up to the actual show were pretty good, but tiring. They were a bit intense because it was the first time we had all of our costume and makeup.”

Vetter said she hopes for the next performance she can keep herself hydrated and prepared, to make these changes more effortless.

“For the next performance, something I would probably do differently is to have more water next to me and have all my costumes laid out before the show so I don’t have to struggle to change in and out of them quickly,” Vetter said. “I am excited for the next show and I hope that it’ll be even better than the first.”

Sophomore Katel Fong, assistant stage manager and sound director for “Murder by Poe,” described the backstage view of the play as easier compared to in-person ones. She said that working online for sound is fairly simple, because all the director has to do is make sure each actor has a microphone that works and a quiet setting to perform in, compared to in-person plays where they’d have to manage mic levels and many other issues.

“The show went as expected for me — we rehearsed enough that we had anticipated any possible issues, and things just went well overall,” Fong said. “I think that this was because, at least for my tech role, there were far less technical variables I had to worry about given the virtual environment.

Freshman Emma Healy, assistant director for Clue, said she felt similarly about the cast’s first performance. She said that as a first-time assistant director, she was extremely proud of the actor’s work in hair, makeup, costumes and timing cues, especially since the theater’s Tech Week was only three days this year, compared to every day for the week.

“Tech had to figure out how to communicate during the show and had a very small amount of time to match the sound cues to the actors’ timing of lines, and I’m so proud of everything they accomplished,” Healy said. “It’s nice to be able to make a beautiful piece of art for people to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, and to be able to connect with people while staying smart and safe.”

“She Kills Monsters” closes the production at 2 p.m. on Nov. 15.