Mrs. Mackey shows us her part in Mead’s theatrical productions

We look behind the scenes of “Radium Girls”


Faith Hale

The Fall 2019 production cast.

Have you ever wondered how actors and actresses get chosen for Mead High’s plays? We met with the director of this year’s play, “Radium Girls”, Mrs. Andrea Mackey, to answer these questions and more.

“This year, it was really hard to choose a play because I have such a large cast [with] 35 students involved and a lot more girls than boys… I start with finding something large, [then] I also wanted to find something balanced with this year’s spring show, “Beauty and the Beast”. It’s a family show and a comedy and just a light show really. [So] I wanted to do something that had a little more depth,” said Mackey. 

In the entirety of choosing a play, directing it, producing it, then showing it, what do directors consider to be the most important factor? Her answer was short and sweet: People. This was an excellent bridge into a leading question students may have: How do you choose the actors or actresses? 

“So we do auditions, and I fill out a rubric for every audition and score students, and as they audition, I also consider their ability to perform different types of characters, like old or young or complex or humorous… [For lead roles,] I consider their ability onstage, their experience, but more importantly, their connection to the role, their personality, and how well they will be able to connect it to the play. Basically how they’ll portray that character with depth. And then also things they’ve shown in the past, like memorizing a lot of lines or just being committed in general,” said Mackey.  

When asked if there were problems with setting up a play, Mackey’s answer was, “Not many problems with casting come up, but the only thing is that students with big roles don’t understand how much work it is until a couple of months in. But they always rise to the challenge. And then the opposite: people with smaller roles tend to think that they’re not that important. But as we go through the process, they learn how much fun it is to be on ensemble and how important their role really is.” 

Building on that, students have wondered what happens when they’re assigned a role that they don’t necessarily like. Mackey replies, “I encourage people to talk to me about it and try to help them understand why I made the decisions that I did, and I just also ask them to trust the process, trust me, give it time, and have an open mind.” 

Looking on the brighter side, Mackey says that the most exciting thing to happen on set is, “Generally speaking, what’s most exciting is when I have a student who’s quiet in the classroom, a wallflower, so to speak, and when they get on stage or into rehearsals they just sort of shine. I’ve definitely had administrators come to me and say ‘Wow that kid on stage is something else; I’ve never seen that kid come out of their shell.’ So I feel that that’s the best thing that can happen.” 

Mackey not only leads the drama department, but she is also our school’s stage tech teacher. 

On other classes, Mackey said, “Our Advanced and Intermediate Tech classes are really involved with helping to design the sets, program the light, set the sound. Just this week in Tech 2 we read the play… we talked a lot today about thematic elements and mood and how we’re gonna pull off the 19 different places that have to exist on stage we counted today. So they’re really integral in that development and design. In Tech 1, they’ll learn the aspects and then have an opportunity to work with set, light, and sound.” 

When she was little, Mackey used to listen to cast recordings: her parent’s records. Shows, mostly. So she’s always been interested in theater. Mackey doesn’t have a favorite play, seeing as they change so fast, but likes a few specific screenwriters. She hopes to one day produce an actual Shakespearean play with all of the Elizabethan style English.

All in all, Mrs. Mackey is excited to see how “Radium Girls” turns out and will continue to work towards bigger and better plays.