In November 2019, the St. Martin’s Episcopal School opened their fall production of the Niel Simon play, “God’s Favorite” in Solomon Theatre. The seniors of the show, Tanner Sykes and Nicholas Lobrano, played integral roles both on and off stage of the production.
Lobrano and Sykes, both veteran actors in and outside the St. Martin’s community, performed in their last fall play with the responsibility of being the leaders of the cast, not only because of their roles but also their experiences.
“I definitely felt a difference,” Sykes said. “A lot of the fun of theatre used to be hanging out in the wings or back stage, but with 'God’s Favorite,' I was on stage the entire time. I had to make my own fun. I didn’t get to enjoy it. Maybe that’s a responsibility that came with being a senior, so you could say being a senior made it different.”
The responsibility of being a senior does not stop at the perform on stage, but also the mentoring of future leads, even if it is unintentional.
“If I mentored them,” Sykes stated, “it definitely was not intention. I didn’t have time to talk to anyone. I will say that I know in the past I have mentored, though… I assume that some of the freshman looked up to me.”
Lobrano described the theatre program as more of a family, where the older, more experienced cast members mentor the younger cast to become better as their time on stage increases.
“We think of it as almost parent figures, where we almost adopt children into the theatre program and teach them the ways of theatre," Lobrano said. "Then they turn out to be more like us later on…They definitely look up to us in a weird way because we're kind of like siblings at the end of it.”
The family-like bonds created backstage also extend past the finale of a show, sometimes going on for years after the students leave the community.
“I still talk to people who did theatre maybe two years ago here, who I became friends with because of theatre and working together," Lobrano said. "I’m definitely going to keep connections with people who I’ve worked with because they’re just some of my favorite people.”
Walking on stage can be a surreal experience, especially knowing that it is your last time. While both of our seniors were relieved to be free from such a responsibility, there was still sadness after the finale.
“My feelings were really feeling of relief,” Sykes stated. “I had a difficult job, I think, objectively. I was so worn out and exhausted from the show. The feelings of ‘oh my god, that was my last play’ really came the next day. Looking back on it all, I feel like I was taking it for granted, saw it as more of a burden than a privilege. That’s what it really was: a privilege.”
The seniors also viewed the play as not just a success for the theatre, but a personal success for them and their other cast members.
“It was a personal success,” Sykes said. “I think I pushed myself to my limit, because I was really going for it, probably more than I should have. I know we're successful, for a fact, because we got a lot of praise for the play, but the most common piece of praise was that 'God’s Favorite' was the best show that St. Martin's has ever put on. That makes me feel incredibly proud of not only myself, but of other people.”
Lobrano had a similar sentiment, citing that the success of a show doesn’t depend on profit, but rather on effort the cast and crew put into their performances.
“For a successful show, it doesn’t matter how many people show up or pay or donate, it’s a matter of how you feel you did in the show. If you think that you successfully when on stage and did your absolute best and give it your all, then absolutely, I would call this a successful show.”