RB’s “Emma” takes the stage on November 3


Colin Daniels

Students at a dress rehearsal getting ready for opening night.

Chloe Borkowicz, Staff Reporter

On November 3, Riverside Brookfield High School’s annual fall play will hit the stage. This year’s production of “Emma” is a play based on a narrative written by Jane Austen. Seniors Aydan Leffel, Sidney Leffel, and Paris Selenica along with sophomore Kathryn Chicoine will play the roles of Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse in this Regency Era piece. The play spans four days with two casts performing two days each.

The production tells the story of a woman named Emma; although Emma is known as the matchmaker of her town, she is not all she is cracked up to be. She tends to mess up couples instead of making them. In the process of her matchmaking duties, she slowly falls for a man named Mr. Knightley. Chicoine shares some insight on her role of the female lead, Emma.

“I’m Emma Woodhouse. She’s a matchmaker, she’s a little mischievous, she’s twenty-one, she’s upper class,” Chicoine said. “She kind of just enjoys making matches. She thinks she’s good at it, but she’s not really that good at it. She ends up just causing chaos.”

Although Emma is an eccentric and amusing young woman, Mr. Knightley is described as plenty more pleasant and calm. Aydan Leffel expands on his character.

“Knightley is definitely strong and confident. He commands a room without demanding too much attention,” Aydan Leffel said. “I really appreciate the way he can be reserved when he is in a group, but when he is with the person he is in love with, Emma. He displays his emotions in many ways that he would never display his emotions with others.”

Although these students are the only people the audience sees, the people behind the scenes have played a crucial role in putting this production together. Sarah Johnson, a teacher at RBHS and assistant director of the play, discussed her role in this production.

“I’m the assistant director to Colleen Stahnke,” Johnson said. “It entails everything from assisting the director with interpreting the script and interpreting the play to concessions to tickets; kind of everything but the artistic vision and the scheduling and the blocking and the real directing. A lot of that falls to me and Earl Baum. He is the auditorium manager but he also is our technical director which means he does all of the crew. I’ll also dabble in the crew as well. I have a lot of things I do.”

Johnson also described how Colleen Stahnke—another teacher at RBHS and director of the production—has put this play together from the bottom up. She has done everything from the set to the organizing to the directing.

Aside from her list of duties for the upcoming performance, she also has plenty of views on why the arts are so important.

“I honestly feel that art is the purest form of expression,” Stahnke said. “When you watch a kid grow up… they dance and sing before they talk and before they even communicate. I think it is just so important in developing the people they are going to be.”

Despite the truth that the performing arts and theater in general are brilliant and unique, they also come with some challenges. This play was not always picture perfect. In fact, “Emma” was not the original production the directors had in mind.

“I was going to do an Agatha Christie play, and we could not obtain the rights to it because a local theater was doing the same show, and it would have been at approximately the same time,” Stahnke said. “This show, actually, we were prepping it pre-pandemic. So before the pandemic hit, this was the show I was going to do in 2020.”

Regardless of the rocky start, the approaching showing of “Emma” is undeniably coming together.

“I think this play is actually very funny. I know it’s Regency, and it’s old, but it’s hysterical. There’s a lot of nitpicks, things that are really well done, and it’s a beautiful set. It’s just incredible, the outfits, everything,” Selenica said. “My directors put so much time and effort into this play and so do the kids. Everyone has put in so much time and I think it’s honestly just a great play to watch.”

This play is quite different compared to some of the other plays done at RBHS. The directors have taken an appeal that is out of the ordinary from the usual technique.

“Our directors have been trying to take a different approach with helping us with our future careers,” Sidney Leffel said. “It’s been interesting to see the other sides of acting. I’ve done a lot of other comedic shows or fun shows, but now it’s getting into thinking about our characters and that kind of thing.”