An interview with Sherri Sutton about upcoming productions
By the Junior School Newspaper
Recently I spoke with Mx. Sutton, a teacher in the innovative theater department at La Chataigneraie (more information about her below) where she told me about her career, how to produce a show, and the hard work put into the shows performed at La Chat. Most importantly, she let me know about the upcoming theater productions at La Chataigneraie.
How do you produce a show?
Firstly, you need a specific topic. According to Mx. Sutton, and generally only for the high school productions, a teacher in the theater department gives a topic to the students to see what sparks their interest. For example, “Titanic” was given as a topic by Mx. Sutton that the students later built upon, resulting in its being December’s production. They will do their own research and structure it how they would like it. Next, they share all their research and information on one common Google slide.
Students lead and develop the projects, finding the deeper meanings within them autonomously. For example, for the Titanic show, they considered how there were rich and poor people aboard the ship, as well as manifestations of racism and sexism onboard. Following this, the teachers and students look at the available space, schedule the show, attend to details, and adapt accordingly.
The seven upcoming theater productions
The secondary school theater department announced that they will be having a total of seven theater productions this year! The theater department is having one show for each year level, starting with a year 7 (seven) show entitled Anansi the Spider or Anansi and the Sky Gods, a story originating from Ghana and West Africa that consists of three or four tales. This was decided after the success of the Ramayana theater play last year in which all 140 students in year 7 brought the community together in collaboration with the music and art departments. In year 8 (eight), the play will be Where the Wild Things Are, adapted from the book by Maurice Sendak, and it will be performed to the students in the primary school. Year 9’s (nine’s) contribution is a small play named Where Children Sleep (inspired by the photographic book by James Mollison), and possibly another play to be performed during lunch times. Another offering is the Brothers Grimm, otherwise known as The Grim and Grimer Fairytales, a year 10 (ten) contribution consisting of seven short dark and edgy sketches. Inspired by Monty Python sketches and The Canterbury Tales, year 11’s will perform a medieval-themed piece of interactive theater, which will be performed around the campus during the last days of the school year. It will have a mix of comedy, religion, pop culture and in jokes. It is, arguably, considered “street theater,” and will have several audience interactions along with several medieval games, dances and outdoor celebrations; the main concept being a pilgrimage around the school.
The aforementioned Titanic play is year 12’s work. Finally, year 13’s will create solo and group performances for their IB. To conclude, there are so many exciting and interesting theatre productions this year to look forward to!
Who is Mx. Sutton?
Mx. Sutton (Sherri Sutton) is a theater teacher at La Chataigneraie who has been teaching theater since 1999. She began teaching at the International School of Georgia, USA, a school that had never done a theater show before. Shorty after arriving, Mx. Sutton was offered the opportunity to direct the first production there. She was reluctant, however, because she was a professional actress travelling, performing, and had other plans. But rent was due and she needed money, so she took the job thinking she would pay some bills. However, the teaching experience was transformative for her. She fell in love with the process of helping young artists find their voices, develop their ideas, and create quality theater productions as they grow into “more empathetic and exciting dynamic young people.” Mx. Sutton likes to say she has always had “one foot on the stage and one foot in the classroom.” She has “two loves that live in life”: one is her stand up comedy (she has since developed three one-person shows and performed them around the world ), and the other is her devotion to educational pedagogy. Additionally, she had been a teacher/coach at several theater events around the world, including ISTA and TAPS. She came to La Chataigneraie in 2014 after a temporary position for a teacher on sabbatical was proposed to her. When the teacher she was filling in for retired, she was offered the job and she took it. She still performs stand up comedy today.
“You can’t kill the theater”
When asked about how the Covid-19 pandemic affected the theater department at La Chataigneraie, Mx. Sutton said that our community was very lucky compared to other communities. For example, Mx. Sutton was in Atlanta during the pandemic and said that in that school, which has a huge theater department with huge funding, every production was canceled. Everything stopped. However, our school was less impacted and figured out a way to get through it together. La Chataigneraie’s theater experience was managed successfully by Mr. Harris Lindop, the head of the theater department, along with the rest of the department. Only a few shows were delayed and one was canceled, with many performed virtually in a creative manner. Mx. Sutton says that “you can’t kill the theater” and that over time, everything has tried to kill it for one reason or another. She says it might get hurt or get wounded but it cannot die.
by Satyan Rajeswaran
Interview with Mx. Sutton