Owen Halstad ’17 spent much of his time at St. Paul’s acting, producing, and writing. Now attending , Pomona College, while at St. Paul’s Owen held the lead role in several productions and wrote produced and directed others. He was a member of the Cum Laude Society, a St. Paul’s Scholar, Co-President of the Film Club, Editor-in-Chief of the School Newspaper and earned an IB diploma and the French and Gellar ’95 Awards for Excellence in Written Expression Recipient.
Owen shared with us about his experience at during the Spring Play in 2017:
In March, I killed Macbeth. My father might have preferred me hitting doubles off the right field wall, but I preferred the sound of a Scottish army’s rhythmic stomping rebounding off the Ward Center’s walls. I wanted to tell stories. So I declared war, and invaded with an ensemble of soldiers carrying cardboard branches of Birnam Wood.
In the midst of my march toward Dunsinane, I searched the horizon and surveyed the field. I was met with 600 eyes following me. In the front row, I noticed a boy’s face discreetly illuminated by his phone. I spoke louder, exaggerated my movements, contorted my face and rapidly delivered my lines in his direction. “Hey! YOU!” I thought, “I’M MACDUFF!! PAY ATTENTION!! LISTEN TO ME!!!” My efforts failed; I wasn’t connecting.
In April, I came not to bury Macbeth, but to direct him…and MacDuff for that matter, in the St. Paul’s Understudy Showcase. Though the understudies weren’t center stage on Friday nights, one Saturday afternoon they had their chance in the spotlight.
The young MacDuff was pursuing his nemesis, but as I had directed, he did so deliberately. “Take your time. Macbeth isn’t even worried about you. Remember, he doesn’t think he is the bad guy.” It seemed to have worked. With impressive composure, he slowed on the precipice of battle. MacDuff waited. And waited. Then, at last, he landed a blow. He no longer sped through his lines with anger and frustration as I had. Instead, we had both learned the power of pacing, reserve, and even silence. My second time around, I hadn’t let speed steal the tension away: I had taken the time to tell the story.
There was a moment of darkness before the white lights of curtain call. I loved the wide grins of the actors as they held each other’s hands. When I was MacDuff, I had enjoyed the audience watching me, but now I was just as happy to watch them.
It stopped being about compliments or praise; instead, the production took on new power. The characters, the meaning, and the story itself were more important than my need for recognition. Few people were aware who directed the showcase, but they knew they had seen a classic that almost everybody who cares about such things has heard of; and they still felt the tension and tragedy of it all. We had honored the story, and I had learned something in the process.
Owen Halstad ’17