What’s in store for theatre this year?


Mary Osiwoga, staff writer

Benjamin Fraley has been teaching Theatre at Ben Davis for the past nine years and this year, they have advanced to being the head of the department. The theatre department is now in for a new start since getting a new director. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Mr. Fraley and find out more exciting things about what they have planned for the theatre this year.


What made you decide to go into theatre?

“I’ve loved theatre since I was in sixth grade and so I started pursuing it, doing as many things as I could. I really started in my freshman year of high school. I was in all the musicals, did student-directed plays, and competed in competitive speech, I just loved performing. It’s something I knew I had an act for, and then in college, I started doing sketch comedy, kinda like SNL and I did improv comedy. I’ve been doing improv comedy for ten years but theatre has always been a passion of mine. So, when I was like, “What do I wanna teach?” I kinda knew I wanted to be a teacher and theatre was just that natural thing. It felt like something I was born to teach.”


Who’s your favorite actor of all time?

“I would say recently, I’ve just been really impressed with actors like Adam Driver or Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out and they’re both able to do such subtle things, and use their faces, and I look at them and go “That’s what acting is, to me”. But of course, there are so many actors like Denzel and Robert Deniro who, when you think about acting, you can’t help but think about them.”


Do you have a favorite movie or play? 

Interviewer: “Mine is Hamilton.”

Fraley: “Yours is Hamilton?”

Interviewer: “Yeah”

Fraley: “My favorite musical of all time is “Westside Story”, it has always been my favorite. I love the original, I love the music of the original movie, and I love the remake that they recently did. It’s just so good, it’s based on Romeo and Juliet. It’s just a classic story and I love the dancing and the dance fighting, especially when I was a kid and I thought dance fighting was so cool.”


Was it always your dream to teach theatre or was there something else you wanted to do?

“When we’re kids, we have all these ideas of what we want to do. I look back on social media of me announcing all the things I want to do and I was like, “I’m gonna move to Chicago, or do professional improv or acting.” At one point, I was gonna became an animal biologist, at one point I was gonna be a lawyer, at one point I wanted to be a novelist and just write books full-time. But I always came back to teaching and I think I was able to do that. I’m able to use my love of performing in teaching, so, I was all over the place but I always came back to teaching.”


How does it feel being the head of the theatre department?

“It feels good. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for the last nine years and it’s always been my passion, I love directing, and I love helping students find their love of theatre because there is so much to love for everyone. It’s a way to find yourself, so, I love that. It definitely is a lot of work because you see the front-facing like teaching, directing but of course being a director is about learning how to delegate, give tasks to people, you have to recruit, you have to have people in the program to actually do anything, you have to have a fundraiser and balance budgets. So, there’s a lot more to it that can get stressful and if anything positive comes out of it, it’s that it’s going to help me learn to be more organized. I’m really excited for the opportunity and I hope that excitement transfers to a lot of students.”


What do you want the student body to know about you and know about the theatre department?

“I would like the student body to know that I am always around. That I’m a resource and the theatre is a safe space. A theatre is a place where you can be yourself, and be vulnerable without fear of judgment and if you’re ever struggling, come see us, come to the theatre. It’s a place where for years, people have been finding safety, reassurance, and acceptance and that is what I want to make sure that this department is about. That it is about you all and accepting you all as you are. It’s giving you a place to show emotion and personality without fear of judgment.”


What do you have in store for the theatre department this year?

Is there anything we should be expecting?

“Yeah, I’m really excited to finally do some big shows that have debuted off-broadway, starting with some cool experimental theatre; I’ve seen some shows that are gonna let our kids experience a lot of cool things. This year, we’re planning to do a show called Puffs. The full title is “Puffs Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years of A Certain School of Magic And Magic.” Which, while we cannot say it’s about a certain boy wizard that there have been 8 movies about, it’s unofficial. It’s an unofficial license but it ran off-Broadway for years so, I’m excited to bring that to our kids and give them the opportunity to perform at that level. It’s really cool, it’s a smaller cast, but all the actors are going to play multiple characters. So, it’s a lot of fast changes, a lot of changing characters and being different people and it’s very frantic and fast and funny. With a lot of cool props and sound effects. We have a new assistant Director, Rowen Squire Willy, who is coming to help us and also direct some projects, we’re gonna be bringing back student-directed projects, so letting students get the process and be behind the director’s chair and do auditions and cast people and really put their own show-up. So, that’s where we’ve started and I’m really excited about where we’re going. We’re gonna try to do more shows, have more events, and have different things to bring the community (teachers and students) in. So, there’s a lot of different things planned.”


Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t touched on yet?

“I would just like to say that we’re having auditions for the spring play, on December 1st, and 2nd. So, people should put that on their calendars. And we’re working with the choir department to put on Aladdin Junior in November and so people should come to see that.”