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The Hill School’s Ellis Theatre Guild to Present "The Hunger Games"

The Hunger Games, based on the popular trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, will come to life on (and off) stage for the first time ever at The Hill School on Friday, May 20 at 7:15 p.m. with additional shows on Saturday, May 21 at 7:15 p.m. and Sunday, May 22 at 5 p.m. 

This immersive theatrical event will be like no other show presented by the Ellis Theatre Guild. According to Director of the Center For The Arts Chris McGriff, it is “the same story in a new experience.”

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, where a boy and a girl from each of the nation's 12 districts are chosen annually as "tributes" and forced to compete in The Hunger Games, an elaborate televised fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place when her sister was initially selected as tribute. With her district's male tribute, Peeta Mellark, Katniss travels to the Capitol to train and compete in the Hunger Games. This performance follows Katiniss’s journey. (Wikipedia)

The Ellis Theatre Guild will be the first high school theatrical group to perform The Hunger Games with exclusive permission from Ms. Collins to recreate the novels/movies for the stage. In true Chris McGriff fashion, he is taking the show in a unique direction and creating a new form of theatre where audience members get to be a part of the story.

“This will be a whole new experience where the audience is living their own Hunger Games,” stated McGriff.

Upon arrival, audience members will be assigned to a district and participate in the Reaping, which is the event where the tributes of the upcoming Hunger Games are selected. Twelve audience members will be chosen as tributes and will be invited to participate in the Games along with the other casted tributes, including Katniss and Peeta.

Meanwhile, the rest of the audience, along with several other cast members, will be ushered into the theatre for an interactive “watch party.” They will view a livestream of the Games, which takes place outdoors in the Far Fields. During the watch party, audience members will watch the Games unfold while interacting with citizens of the Capitol.

In addition to the performance being distinctive and complex, so is the educational experience the students are receiving. To make this a fully immersive experience for everyone involved, McGriff felt it was important for the cast members to not break from their characters, especially when interacting with the audience members during the watch party. To achieve that, they are practicing the Method acting technique where the actors “become” their character and remain in the role for extended periods of time.  

I really want the cast to get deeper into their roles,” remarked McGriff. “So much so that they will be able to have an off-script conversation with audience members while staying in character.

Part of fully embracing a character is learning their actions and behaviors. The Hunger Games is a fight for survival and tributes must hunt and defend themselves against one another and wild predators. To master the physical aspects of the tribute role, McGriff has enlisted the help of Terri McEntyre, a fight and intimacy director. Ms. McEntyre and her assistant, Shawn, have been working with the cast and crew two days per week to perfect these skills.

This show also presented another opportunity to work with Anne Cubberly, a local artist who specializes in puppet-making, to create some of the mutations (genetically modified wild animals) the tributes encounter during the Games.

While the cast members have been hard at work transforming themselves into tributes and citizens of the Capitol, the tech crew, under the direction of Pete Gorneault, has been designing and building two elaborate sets, including one outdoors. The “cornucopia” is being constructed on the Far Fields in the same location as last year’s Into the Woods set. The cornucopia is the structure in the middle of the tributes’ launch pads where they can gather survival-oriented items at the beginning of the Games. The other set is in the theatre where the watch party takes place.

All audience members are encouraged to participate in this theatrical experience in a way that is comfortable to them or sit back and enjoy the show unfold around them. For those more familiar with the story, we invite you to dress up in your district's finest and experience what it's like to become a citizen of Panem!

This show also is the final performance for sixth form cast and crew members, some of whom have been a part of the Ellis Theatre Guild for the last four years. We congratulate them on their hard work and celebrate all they have accomplished on stage and behind the scenes!