Shady Side Academy to present student-driven ‘Original Works’
Shady Side Academy senior Koji Shimada is feeling opening-night jitters prior to the Senior School’s Original Works Theatre Festival, despite having performed countless times on stage.
The festival will be Shimada’s premiere as a writer, director and actor in his own musical, and the teen is feeling the pressure, he said.
“I’m both excited and nervous,” said Shimada, who is among a group of six SSA students who will debut their work during the show.
“For me, writing this show has been a deeply personal experience, especially when a lot of it is based on my own experiences. It feels very revealing to be putting this on in front of friends and classmates.”
A collection of original short plays written, directed and staged by Senior School students will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Peter J. Kountz Theater of the Hillman Center for Performing Arts on campus, 423 Fox Chapel Road.
Admission is free.
Some of the scenarios may not be suitable for children younger than high school age.
This is the eighth annual festival showcasing original works by SSA students.
They will be presented as staged readings and will include a question-and-answer session with playwrights, directors, actors and technicians.
Student works include Shimada’s “Cape Town to Pittsburgh,” as well as:
• “1/16,” written and directed by senior Nick Sawicki of Indiana Township
• “Any Time,” written and directed by senior Angela Cameron Glass of Brighton Heights
• “The Intervention,” written and directed by senior Ariel Rockman of Murrysville
• “Breaking,” written by senior Drew Sveda of Pine and directed by senior Caitlin Mulvihill of Pine
Shimada’s play is about a boy who visits South Africa and falls in love. When he returns home, he’s torn between his prior crush and his newfound love.
“His pursuit ends up causing problems at school, with his friends and with his parents,” Shimada said. “It’s really about love and what we’re willing to sacrifice of ourselves to get it.”
Senior School drama director Dana Hardy-Bingham is the artistic producing director, freshman Hannah Romoff will serve as stage manager and staff member Austin Davidheiser is the technical director.
Hardy-Bingham said she started the Original Works Theatre Festival in hopes of generating more student involvement in the theater department.
The work is a culmination of material developed in her upper-level English Playwriting course in fall 2018.
She said students developed their short plays through a variety of writing exercises, acting improvisations, drafting and discussions.
The pieces include drama and comedy, touching on many themes that teens find relevant today, she said.
For Shimada, first-time writing was eye-opening.
“As an actor, you don’t realize how much work the playwright has already done for you,” he said. “Without their efforts, it would be much harder to bring a character to life.”
Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121 x1512, [email protected] or via Twitter .