Hilary Moore ’10 is out to disrupt the theater world, and that’s a good thing. In her first full year as The Bush School’s Upper School Drama Teacher and Theater Director, one of her main focuses is shifting the spotlight to the students.
“I think there’s really some institutional power dynamics in theater that is one of the biggest downfalls of theater, and I want to disrupt that,” she said. “An actor is not just a prop, they come with their own ideas.”
One way Hilary’s already started to change the narrative is through this fall’s play. A first in school history, the Bush Upper School production of “The Memory Eaters” is an original script written by Hannah Merrill ’11, with the idea that Bush theater students take the lead from start to finish.
“It’s an entirely student-led thing, with set, lighting, costumes, all of it done by students,” Hilary said. “I wanted to make it student designed with support from the adults as well.”
With the overarching themes of relationships, human connections, and the idea of letting go, “The Memory Eaters" is an adventure show featuring "fantastical creatures and humor set in this fantasy world,” Hilary said.
“The Memory Eaters” will run from Wednesday, November 10 through Saturday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the Benaroya Theater. There is also a 1:30 p.m. matinee performance on Saturday. Ticket reservations are required and can be made here
Added Clara F. ’24, who works on the Scenic Design team as the Assistant Stage Manager: “Hilary is very good at empowering us to do this ourselves. And this is definitely one of my favorite things I’ve done. I’m so excited to see it finished.”
Hilary, who has held various roles at Bush since 2014, officially started work in the Upper School and as Director late last year, undertaking the task of assembling Bush’s livestream production in the spring, due to the pandemic. Hilary said since graduating from Bush, she’s kept in touch with Hannah and followed her work. She explained she’s always known she wanted to collaborate with Hannah, as the idea of an original production for Bush’s theater department was a shared vision by the two.
“She (Hannah) was all for it but she said, ‘I want it to be something the students want to really do,’” Hilary said. “I think it's a really unique experience to have students work with a playwright and see it from internal brainstorming to them putting on a full production; it’s not usually something high school students get to do.”
Flash back to the spring of 2021 when “The Memory Eaters” was a jumble of ideas. Hilary said with the concept of creating something brand new, students in the theater community took part in a massive brainstorming session with Hannah, going over their visions and desires from the characters, theme, and setting. Through that, Hannah was able to craft multiple drafts. Hilary said “The Memory Eaters” combines all of the initial ideas from the brainstorming session.
“The best part of this whole process for me was getting to work with the students,” Hannah said. “I remember very well being in high school and feeling as if I rarely got a real say, even in activities I really loved. It was an unexpected pleasure to get ideas and feedback from the students, not only to involve them in the creation of the play, but also because their thoughts really did make the play significantly better.”
Over the summer students workshopped with Hannah and Hilary on the script to give it life. Hilary said by the end of the week, they had the final product.
“Being able to give her (Hannah) feedback and talk about the play, how the play is created, how she wrote, it was really cool,” said Reagan ’24, who plays the character Lores.
Since then, it’s been non-stop for the twenty-five students involved.
“It’s been a lot of making, planning, and changing,” Clara said. “But it’s been fun to create and come up with new ideas, and take challenges and roll with them.”
From the actors to the technical crew, the entire production has been led by the students. Hilary said by doing this, she’s witnessed the students' growth.
“The biggest thing is just ownership,” Hilary said. “The fact that their ideas went into the script I think added a new sense of ownership.”
Hannah said she played a significant role in the workshop, providing feedback, but the actual rehearsal process, Hilary and the students have taken the lead.
“I have discovered during my career as a playwright that if the play has already had a workshop, it is best to let the director and the actors take over. If I'm not hovering over them, the play becomes theirs, and that's the ultimate goal,” Hannah said.
Reagan ’24 said: “The Memory Eaters” will be fun to watch for audience members but also dealing with a lot of potent subject matters around relationships, and letting go of the past and loved ones; it will be something audience members will not be expecting.
“It’s been incredible to watch the process of seeing the characters develop and the whole world form before my eyes is so cool,” Reagan said. “With other shows it’s already there, it’s been done before, the characters have already been developed. And here, we are the first people to be doing it. We get to develop, we get to choose what happens.”
For Hilary and Hannah, this production serves as not only a jumping off point for more-student driven work at Bush, but also a way to help prepare and empower the students.
“I wholly support students taking ownership of the theatre they do,” Hannah said. “An ideal education teaches people not just what to learn but also how to learn. High school students have a lot of expertise, and are capable of developing the expertise they lack, with the help of both adults and each other. And the more they can look at a piece of theatre and say "I had a part in making this," the more they will be prepared to tackle other cooperative projects, both during their time at Bush and after they leave.”
When: Wednesday, November 10 through Sunday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m. There is also a 1:30 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday.
Where: The Bush School’s Benaroya Theater
Reservations are required and can be made here
. There is a limited 50% seating capacity for safety protocols.
Please note the following:
Vaccination is required for all eligible audience members.
Audience members will be seated in household groups, with six feet in between each household, and must remain masked at all times.
Due to depictions of violence, this show is meant for audience members ages twelve and up.
Seizure warning: strobe lights are used in this production