'Willy Wonka Jr.' features largest Middle School set

The audience for the annual Middle School Musical will be treated to a spectacular set exceeding the size of any built before it. Continue reading to find out how the show’s technical crew brought Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to 2000 Edgehill.
By Sierra Smith, Communications Specialist

While some might think 2000 Edgehill isn’t busy over the summer, the Durnan Auditorium has been abuzz since Monday, July 18 when Technical Theater Director Jim Manning and a crew of almost 20 Middle School students began the momentous task of turning the stage into Willy Wonka’s iconic chocolate factory. 

Starting just two weeks before the cast began rehearsals, the annual Middle School Musical’s technical crew dove right into painting, carpentry, and other building projects to bring Roald Dahl’s fictional world to life. For many fifth-graders, joining the tech crew was their first experience learning about these behind-the-scenes aspects of presenting a play or other production. 

“It’s been fun to try something new since most of us fifth-graders have never done anything like this before,” Evan Zagnoev '30 shared. “It’s cool to see the pieces you’re working on come together to build an entire set, and this really made me excited for the new year.”

Since the show is in the Durnan Auditorium, instead of many previous Middle School Musicals which were presented on Vanderbilt University's campus, the set does not have to be moved and loaded in. As a result, it’s given the crew the opportunity to build what is Middle School’s largest theater set in school history, an architectural feat Manning estimates to have taken over 100 hours to build. This tremendous time investment from the show’s crew doesn’t even account for the time spent setting the lights and running sound throughout the production’s run. 

With so many novice crew members, a tight turnaround time, and an ambitious set design, Manning was fortunate to have the support of a few former students to help guide the younger students through the process and tackle more comprehensive projects. The young alumni who helped transform Durnan Auditorium into a world of “Pure Imagination” are Jonathan Nichols '22, Lawson Berman '22, Cooper Standard '18, and Cole McMillan '20. 

“My expectations for this crew have really been exceeded so far. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a great deal of responsibility and quite a commitment, so I’m grateful to every one of the students and alumni who helped make it possible,” Manning shared. 

To see the final product of such an exceptional technical crew, purchase “Willy Wonka Jr.” tickets here
    • Isaiah Ng '30 cuts a board using a miter saw.

    • Anand Pastakia '30 and Miles Lewis '27 work together to line up two planks of wood.

    • Sadie Sims '29 and Layla Jahangir '29 use a miter saw.

    • A group of "Willy Wonka Jr." tech crew members pause for a photo. Pictured are (front row, from left) Layla Jahangir '29, Mattie James Bass '29, Stella Capus '30, Miles Lewis '27; (back row) Sadie Sims '29, Evan Zagnoev '30, Anand Pastakia '30, and Isaiah Ng '30.

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