THEATER: The ultimate team sport

West Orange and Southwest Orange students have plenty of ways to get involved in the theater arts.

  • By
  • | 1:11 p.m. June 19, 2024
The lead character of ‘Willy Wonka’ was portrayed by Ava Marie Petroski.
The lead character of ‘Willy Wonka’ was portrayed by Ava Marie Petroski.
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • News
  • Share

I’ve had a love of theater for many years. When I mention this passion to people, they often don’t think the arts are as beneficial and rigorous as sports or academic activities. However, performing has taught me valuable lessons from the first day to closing night.


The first step to many shows is auditions. Usually, the director will ask you to prepare part of a song or a monologue. The goal is to not show you’re better, but to show how you’re different from everyone else. It’s important to be yourself!

At one audition, I could perform whatever song I wanted. While this sounds easy, I had to pick from hundreds of pieces of music. I had to consider how much time I had until the audition, my vocal range, and what song would correspond to the character I was auditioning for.



After the roles are assigned, the cast and crew meet each other and begin practicing. We learn our blocking, which is the movement of the actors throughout a scene. If it’s a musical, we’ll learn dances and music as well.

Every person I’ve worked with is unique. Some directors will assign blocking, while others will let the actors “feel it out.” Certain choreographers will want fancy footwork, while others will let performers stand in place. Different personalities make shows special!

Ava Marie Petroski was a member of the ‘Matilda Jr.’ cast.

The cast will be different each time, too. Some cast members, such as the ones in school shows, know each other already. You can have plenty of friends in your show but can be a little uncomfortable performing in front of others. I’ve also walked into rehearsal rooms not knowing anyone and walked out ecstatically. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but if you’re starting a show, try to be open and make new friends!  



Tech Week, the week leading up to opening night, is one of the most rigorous parts of performing. The cast begins wearing costumes and sometimes microphones. The crew is busy rigging up the lights and practicing sound cues. It’s difficult and exhausting for everyone involved, especially with opening night looming in the near distance.

For many days, I’d drive straight from school to the theater. After spending hours at rehearsal, I’d eat in the car and stay up late doing my homework. Then, the next day, I’d do it all again.

For Tech Week, you have to be flexible while putting in as much effort as possible. Instead of making room for the theater, you must put the theater first. In a recent show, I knew all my blocking and choreography but the addition of puppetry was a huge curveball. The dedication of our cast and crew was truly admirable.



After hours and hours of work, opening night comes! There are many ways to approach the event: stress, anxiety, excitement. Having to face an audience is terrifying. Every response is understandable. Know that people want to see you succeed. Going onstage is an amazingly brave feat, and you should be proud.

When I get onstage and start singing, I remember why I perform: Because I love it. Making people laugh and cry fills me with a warmth everyone deserves to have.

Theater has taught me creativity, teamwork, discipline and bravery. The sense of community in a cast is unlike anything else. Whether the arts are your passion or not, I encourage you to go after what makes you happy. You never know what could happen.

Ava Marie Petroski portrayed Scar in ‘The Lion King.’


Latest News