Boys, Boys, Wherefore Art Thou Boys?

LADIES' MAN St. Marks junior Will practices a "Pride and Prejudice" scene with six Hockaday actresses. Photo by Isabella

St. Marks/Hockaday production of “Pride & Prejudice” lacks boys for male roles

When you walk into the St. Mark’s black box for “Pride & Prejudice” rehearsals, at first glance, all seems normal. You see the actors memorizing their lines and doodling on their scripts, the costume crew sketching and the tech crew playing with screw guns. You do not, however, see a surplus of Y chromosomes.

As shown by the one-to-three ratio of boys to girls at both cast auditions and crew calls, the lack of boys in St. Mark’s and Hockaday plays is a growing problem.

“It can be a little intimidating to see so many girls trying out and so little guys. Guys seem to have the better end of the deal when it comes to auditions,” said junior Ashley, who was a Wickersham in last year’s musical production of “Seussical the Musical.”

Over the past years, the amount of boys trying out for the plays and the winter musicals has seriously decreased. Underclassmen boys at St. Mark’s  are eager to put on a jersey to play in a game. Most are three-season athletes, so it’s harder to find boys willing to give up a sports season for the stage.

St. Mark’s senior Taylor is Sir William Lucas in the upcoming fall play, “Pride and Prejudice,” but it will be his first time on stage. “Among the St. Mark’s community there is a huge focus on athletics,” Wilson said. “I tried out because I’ve always loved acting and drama. It’s a fun environment.”

But for most, a fun environment is not enough incentive. St. Mark’s junior Charles, who is taking part in his second play this fall, said, “I think there is a certain manliness you have to hold as a St. Mark’s student and acting isn’t manly enough.”

Although this image of being a tough, football type is starting to decline at St. Mark’s, many boys still seem to have trouble getting in touch with their artsy side and joining a production.

“For guys, the guy to girl ratio is incredible, but we don’t exactly have enough experienced actors for the harder male roles all the time,” Charles said.

Due to the lack of boys trying out for plays, it becomes hard to properly cast a show. Ultimately, every boy that tries out for the play gets a part. On the other hand, at Hockaday, three times as many girls try out and many don’t make the cut.

Senior Kendall, an active crew member since her freshman year, claims these factors create a feeling of tension and stress to prove that the students still can create wonderful productions. “It puts a lot of pressure on the plays because we feel like we don’t have a substantial amount of talented boys,” she said.

For now, Rod Blaydes, theater director at both Hockaday and St. Mark’s since 1980, has to wildly promote the plays and find non-athletes to persuade to try out. “I end up cornering a lot of students; it’s the only way to get guys to participate,” he said, “Boys don’t see the great opportunities plays offer as much as girls.”

All actors and crew members interviewed affirmed that after an intensive three months of working together, the boys and girls in productions develop closer bonds.

“The thing with the separate schools is a lot of our interactions are at dances or a party which is always awkward,” junior Lizzie said. “So when you do things with the play you actually become friends.”

No one knows the problems about having a lack of boys better than Blaydes, who has been directing all Hockaday and St. Mark’s plays since he started teaching at both of the schools.

“There is always going to be a problem getting guys to try out for plays,” Blaydes said.  “There always has been, and there always will be.”

Unlike Hockaday, St. Mark’s does not have an active Fine Arts Board which might attribute the lack of knowledge about play opportunities.

“We always get enough boys. Barely, but we do,” Blaydes said. “I do wish I had more choice.”

In an attempt to get more boys to try out for the winter musical, try outs were extended. However, this change did not bring any new faces to auditions.

Most of the boys involved in the fall play are underclassmen with less theatre experience than desired. “From an educator’s standpoint, when you have fewer boys, the less experienced get more of a chance, which also makes them improve greatly, so that’s good,” Blaydes said.

But no matter how desperate the situation, Hockaday will never be able to recruit actors from Cistercian or Jesuit.

“There is an agreement between Hockaday and St. Mark’s that says we can’t take on boys from other schools, and I am active in both schools so I really can’t,” Blaydes said.

Although St. Mark’s and Hockaday productions seem to always have acquire enough boys for every play in the end, the struggle to obtain constant actors or crew members remains. Without a supportive, stable group of boys participating in productions, the process of creating the show is strained.

“All productions leave with a memorable experience and new connections with people you never really knew,” Ashley said. “We need guys to create really great shows and I know they would all find it a rewarding experience.”

– Sydney