Emily Sillars ’15 doesn’t have the most glamorous job in the Rumors cast. If she’s very good at it, no one in the audience will even know she’s there—her small part will simply weave another thread in the magic cloth of the play.
When stage manager Minh Do ’13 tells her the cue through a headset—cue five, or six, or 12—Sillars tips a giant light mounted on a pole and spins it toward the stage windows.
“To me, it just looks like this,” says the soft-spoken Sillars, and she spins the light toward the windows. During the show, the beam plays across the interior of a sophisticated New York mansion. Or at least that’s what it looks like to the audience. From Sillars’ perch backstage, all she can see is an unfinished wall, full of exposed joists and beams.
“I can’t tell what it looks like at all,” Sillars says, adding with a gesture at the room beyond, “It all works together and makes this place.”
This fall, the Williston Northampton Theater Program presents Rumors, a farce by Neil Simon. The play, which runs through the weekend of Oct. 27, examines the world of upper class New Yorkers through the lens of a high end anniversary party where everything that can go wrong, does. A few days before the play’s opening night, Williston’s student blogger Brendan Hellweg ’14 took a short break from Beyond the Binder to sit down with actor Laura McCullagh ’13 to talk about her role, her costume, and how she’d react if stuck in an elevator with her character, Chris Gorman.
BH: What do you like most about acting as your character?
I really love that she is very different from me as a person. I’m one of those people who in a crisis situation will sit down and think of every possible way to solve it and then figure out which way is the best to go about doing things and she just panics and everything goes out the window. It’s really fun to play with that aspect of her – that she’s absolutely crazy.
Thirteen women from the Northampton School for Girls Class of 1962 were heading down a back staircase when one looked around with sudden recognition.
“Miss Whittaker and Miss Bement used to walk down these for prayers!” she said.
“Oh my God! Yes!” said a classmate.
The women paused for a moment, glancing around, and then continued on their way down the stairs, swapping stories of French fieldtrips, old pranks, and favorite teachers.
The tour of the former Northampton School for Girls buildings and grounds was just one of many activities that celebrated school history and alumni during Reunion Weekend, June 8-10. Special reunion exhibits and slideshows celebrated the past, while jazz on the quad, summer barbecues, and class dinners recognized the spirit of the present.
During the class-sponsored seminars, faculty and alumni offered lectures on everything from playwriting and mite infestations to the upcoming Presidential election.
In a popular talk on Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Richard H. Brown ’72 and Colonel Stephen P. White ’77, P’11 discussed the country’s drug trade and the development of, and setbacks with, major infrastructure.
“I can’t emphasize enough how very difficult this stuff is because of the terrain,” Lt. Col. Brown said, showing slides of rugged mountains and arid desert land. Still, he said that the development of infrastructure, in a long-term and sustainable way, was critical to getting Afghanistan back on solid economic footing.
“The silk road is the balancing act,” he said. “That’s what could tilt the economy positively.”
A balancing act of the academic kind was the focus of another talk—“Williston Northampton Today,” presented by Head of School Robert W. Hill III P’15.
Speaking to alumni in the Williston Theatre, Hill talked about how boarding schools have changed over the past decade and how The Williston Northampton School, in particular, had become “a more diverse campus in every sense.”
“We are schools of the world,” he said. “What happens in our classrooms, on our fields, in our dorms provides a foundation for everything that follows. That almost 350 alumni and former faculty are on this campus this weekend is a testament to the strength of this experience.”
Both the pre-merger institutions of the Northampton School for Girls and Williston Academy were recognized in archival images and slideshows over the weekend. There was also a special dedication of the NSFG Angelus bell in its new home on the lawn of 194 Main Street.
But it was a tour of the old NSFG campus on June 9—through buildings now part of the Cutchins Programs for Children and Families—that proved to be a highlight of the weekend.
In celebration of their 50th Renunion, members of the Class of 1962, their spouses, and a few fellow alumna walked through the old buildings, reminiscing about school life. The rooms brought back memories of favorite teachers, awards ceremonies, English papers, and science labs.
“I dissected a frog in here!” said an alumna, through a doorway.
“Are the worms still in here that we cut up?” joked another. “Do you see any worms?”
It was not a walk down memory lane, perhaps, but a stroll through memory’s classrooms and corridors. Which made it all the more fitting that, as the tour was drawing to a close, the NSFG alumna lined a front staircase and together sang the Alma Mater.
The Williston Northampton School presents its annual fall play on October 20-22 and October 27-29 in the Williston Theatre. This year’s offering is Eurydice by Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. except Friday, October 21, when the show begins at 8:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $5 and may be reserved at (413) 529-3434 or the box office email. Admission is free for Williston families on October 21.
Ruhl’s dream-like play, written in 2001, is a meditation on loss, love, and our hopes for true connection. This devastatingly breathtaking retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth creates a world in which worms deliver letters, stones talk, and rivers make people forget.