“Group Chat”: A true drama story


Mr. Joshua Bickford

Hannah Moghaddar and Kira Hamburg act surprised as they look at a recent post during rehearsal for the fall play, "Group Chat."

Lavanya Meduri, Riya Ghate, Richa Bhandary, Meredith Rodgers, David Sun, and Francesca Mangano

“The whole point of drama is to leave someone thinking something that they never thought before,” said Abby Cortez, sophomore at Oakton High, writer of the last two fall plays Rachel Carson Middle School conducted.

According to many students and teachers, “Group Chat” did just that.

The advanced drama students showcased the RCMS fall play “Group Chat” on Nov. 14 and Nov. 29 in the Lecture Hall before crowds of 245-300 people—parents and students alike.

The idea of the play was to see how social media impacted the lives of middle school students.

“This play was so relatable to the lives of modern people,” says Safana Sahib, 13, Dream Team. “I would definitely recommend it!”

Middle school life

One of the actors Samanvitha Dammalapati, 13, on the Explorer team, plays a girl who struggles with her honors math and transfers to regular math.

“I think this play is unique because it is mainly a student-run show. The directors, actors, and scriptwriters are all students,” says Samanvi. “It was also the first original play from Rachel Carson Middle School. The previous year’s plays were all adapted from famous shows.”

The whole idea behind “Group Chat” is to show what life in middle school is like and how phones play a vital role in a teenager’s life in and out of school.

“I like how students can relate to the circumstances that happened in the play, said Rishita Markan, 12, of the All Stars team. “It’s a fun play to watch and experience.”

“Group Chat” was written by Abby Cortez, a 16-year-old student at Oakton High School. “There was an underlying theme about technology,” Abby said, “The idea is to have people relate and help each other.”

She had some of the Advanced Drama students write prompts and real stories about incidents they’ve been through to use for the play.

“I’m hoping that the play is a tool for adults and kids to communicate with each other,” Mr. Bickford said. “It’s a very different world we live in.”


Student-created and led

After Abby wrote the play, she sat down with fellow high school students and read the script.

“We read a cold draft to get feedback,” she said.

Abby worked on reading and revising the script until about a month into the school year, finally done with it. She worked with Mr. Bickford to decide the student directors and have them start the casting process.

“My advice to someone writing a play is not to worry, you don’t have to change everything everyone else says to you,” Abby says.

Abby encourages the idea of not using many props in the show. “Sometimes I think props take away from what you can do with other people in the scene,” she said. Most of the performance used a type of style where you “mime” the props as if they are there.

I think the cast and crew worked well together,” Abby said. “I’m very happy with it.”

The play’s director, eighth-grader Freya Nardelli worked with the technical director, eighth-grader Wyatt Byrd to help run the play while Mr. Bickford supervised.

“My role was a producer,” said Mr. Bickford. “Some days I felt like I could sit back and watch them work, and sometimes I had to get them to work. It was mostly the students that ran this production. I just supervised and made the final touches.”

To practice for the play, the advanced drama students would read lines whenever they had free time, and they had after school rehearsals.

“The hardest thing to remember was blocking which is basically what part of the stage you are standing on for a scene,” said Anisha Giri, age 13, of the Wolves team.

Samanvi said, “I would love to have this opportunity again because it was an amazing experience. I was able to collaborate with my partners and directors to create the most enjoyable show.”

Mr. Bickford said students can look forward to “Pirates of Penzance Jr.,” the spring play for the 2018-2019 year.