No more monkey business

Drama department takes a new direction with the fall musical


Felicia Xiong, Staff Writer

In the auditorium, there are multiple bands of apes scattered across the stage and knuckle walking through the aisles, beating their chests. They unite on green structures covered in foliage and grunt loudly. Everyone is transfixed, as the ambience truly feels like that of a jungle.

MN’s production of “Tarzan” ran through Oct. 4-7, and the audience couldn’t help but marvel at the realism of the apes on stage. It was the first time the drama department had ever had the task of portraying an entirely different species.

In preparation for the opening night, the drama department had to jump through multiple hoops. First, director of choral activities Megan Tantillo had spend time reviewing online videos of gorillas in order to apply their mannerisms to the actors on stage. Training the cast to adopt apelike movements, as well as stay in character, was the most burdensome task.

“If you weren’t going to embrace your role, an audience member sees that you’ve broken character, and it immediately ruins the facade that you’re trying to create that we are in the jungle,” Tantillo said.

Running around like a gorilla on all fours in front of an audience probably sounds mortifying to some high school students, but the cast members took it in stride to completely embrace their roles. Junior Bineesha Adhikari was one of the numerous apes who had to master gorilla knuckle walking and chest pounding.

“There are going to be things that you don’t necessarily want to do. Like you don’t necessarily want to kiss another person or be intimate with another person. By the end of the day, it’s not you that’s doing it, it’s the characters that you are portraying who are doing those actions,” Adhikari said.

The cast members not only had to adapt to apelike behaviors but also animalistic mentalities. In one scene, the humans set up an expedition camp in the jungle, and the gorillas displayed their fascination with the unfamiliar objects.

“We have to not think of it as a spoon, we have to think of it as this brand new thing. We have to forget everything we knew prior [as humans] and have a brand new mindset like we’re seeing this for the first time,” Adhikari said.

For senior Luke Stursma, who played Tarzan’s gorilla dad, Kerchak, the transition from human to animal was easier, as Kerchak has anthropomorphic qualities and dialogue. However, Stursma had to adjust to Kerchak’s aggressive temperament.

“To quote a couple of people, they’re kind of surprised to see ‘nice Luke’ is able to accurately portray an angry silverback gorilla,” Stursma said.

The actors really got a taste of playing difficult roles. “Tarzan” was a big shift from usual musical productions, which typically feature characters from different time periods rather than animals.

“The theater department is always branching outside of your comfort zone, trying to do things you haven’t done before,” Adhikari said.