Lee Academy’s performance of the one-act play “The Unknown Part of the Ocean” won top honors at the Regional Drama Festival and was runner-up at the state competition held this spring. Juniors Maggie Banks ‘18 and Lauren Dodge ‘18 also took home individual awards for outstanding acting at both competitions. They and the rest of the cast and crew took the show to the New England Drama Festival in Norwood, Massachusetts in April.
“The Unknown Part of the Ocean,” written by award-winning playwright Sheri Wilner, is about a woman who is dying of cancer, and her young daughter who tells her fantastical stories to entertain her. Banks played Carolyn, the mother, and Dodge took on the role of Sophie, the eight-year-old daughter. Both have been part of the L.A. Drama Club since freshman year, but have been acting much longer than that. Banks was part of Drama Club in middle school, and Dodge was part of community theatre as a seven-year-old.
“I’ve always been the kind of kid who loved to read,” Dodge said about how she got into acting. “I always loved the idea of being able to be in different people’s shoes.” With this play in particular, she was put in the shoes of a child whose mother was dying of cancer, which helped her understand what others go through in that situation. “It gives you a whole new perspective of how hard it would be to be a parent, watching your kid, knowing you’re not going to be there, and how that’s going to hurt them and you won’t be there when they’re hurt about it… It gives you so many new perspectives and it gives you a chance to experience things.”
“Honestly, in the beginning of it all, it was really hard to get into my character,” said Banks. “I was a thirty-six-year-old mother with a little child and I had cancer,” which is something she hasn’t experienced in her own life. “After a while, Lauren and I both got better at our parts and I’d have some rehearsals where I’d just forget about everything else in my life and I would become Carolyn, and there were some times when we’d almost cry in scenes because we were so into it… it brought us closer.” Both women look up to trained Broadway actors like Sutton Foster and Patti Lupone as well as film and television actors like Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon as inspiration.
Working on the play was a big commitment; the cast and crew worked on it four days a week each week from mid-January to competition time in March and April. This is especially impressive when you consider that, as Dodge pointed out, “the content of the play was emotionally draining.” Both women are also part of the school’s band program. “Lots of band,” Banks joked. “Jazz band, concert band, pep band…” She hopes to join the Air Force band after graduation from Lee Academy and has already visited with a recruiter. She is also interested in music education. Dodge has plans to study English and later teach it.
In the immediate future, Banks and Dodge are both looking forward to participating in L.A.’s upcoming fall musical. They also would both encourage incoming students to give Drama Club a try. Though Lee Academy offers several theatre classes covering topics and skills like improv, voice, movement, and advanced acting (read more about our theatre arts program and director Candy Parker here), anyone can participate in the fall play and the one-act play.
“Theatre is such an amazing thing,” said Banks. “Once you really get the hang of it you go out there and you just become someone else… it’s really cool. Don’t be afraid to do it!” Dodge agrees, advising students to “put yourself out there!” Banks recalls the first day she walked into Intro to Drama class and saw upperclassmen acting freely and having fun improvising. In the beginning she was nervous but eventually caught on and found it to be freeing and a lot of fun; two years later she won awards at multiple drama festivals! Dodge also points out that students who participate in theatre tend to have a leg up on things like class presentations, because they are used to getting up in front of crowds and projecting. “It gives you a lot of confidence,” Dodge said, crediting her experience in theatre with helping her adjust when she moved to town just before beginning high school. “When you do theatre, it’s a family,” Banks said. “Everyone who’s there wants to be there,” Dodge adds, “which makes a huge difference.”
Congratulations to Maggie Banks and Lauren Dodge on their acting awards, and to the entire Lee Academy Drama Club for their success at this spring’s drama festivals!