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Cougar Chronicle

The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

Cougar Chronicle

The Student News Site Of Central Kitsap High School

Cougar Chronicle

Student Director Zee Lee: Paying Attention to What’s Behind the Curtain

CKHS Junior Zee Lee’s role as student director paves the way for more student leadership in student productions, diversifying the production’s process in CK’s spring play “Radium Girls.”
Zee+Lee+stands+on+the+right+in+their+director+t-shirt%2C+accompanied+by+CK+Dramas+stage+manager+on+the+left.+%28Provided+by+Zee+Lee%29.
Zee Lee stands on the right in their “director” t-shirt, accompanied by CK Drama’s stage manager on the left. (Provided by Zee Lee).

In the world of CK Drama’s theater program and amidst the buzz of preparing for their spring “Radium Girls” production, the new and specially-made role of student director is filled by CKHS junior Zee Lee. A longtime member of the theater team and self-proclaimed “theater kid,” Lee approached this leadership position with enthusiasm and honor for the path that led them there.

“It’s been a long road,” Lee said. “I’ve been doing theater since I was about 12, and this is my seventh show here at CK – I’ve done almost every single show since the first one of my freshman year. It’s been a big build up to such a big leadership role. I’ve gone from tiny little side roles to a very big lead role in the last show to now here, student directing.”

As a new leader in the drama department, Lee balances the work of student direction with the pre-existing role of stage manager to ensure everything flows smoothly.

“A stage manager is more involved in the tech side of things… so during shows they have their headset on and they’re calling cues, but for my role and Mr. Timm’s role, we’re more involved with the actors, giving them constructive criticism to make the show better,” said Lee. 

We take a really hard look at the script and read it 5,000 times and study it so we are able to help the actors expand their knowledge of the show.”

— Zee Lee

Scrutinizing the show and working with all of the actors to ensure their characters remain interconnected is one of the major duties of a director.

“We [the directors] understand the whole show and how each character fits into the plot and everyone else’s character,” said Lee said. “By helping each individual actor, we are building the whole plot in the show. My job in those weeks before tech week is helping the actors figure out their character.”

Taking on the role of student director offered Lee an opportunity to engage in this newfound leadership position, providing a younger and more student-oriented insight into the show’s production.

“I have helped a lot more than I was expecting to when [Timm] initially offered me the role of student director,” Lee said Lee. “He has really given me authority over the show, which is really exciting to me. Even during auditions, I helped cast the show…I get to give any note to the actors that I notice, and I even designed most of the set by myself.”

Lee’s peers have taken note of how having a student in a theater leadership role serves both the experience of student actors as well as the final production of the show.

“It’s been a way to get more one-on-one with peers because I think sometimes having the same director tell you the same notes over and over, you’re like, ‘okay, I’ll try to do this’ but having a different perspective on it, especially from someone who’s around your age, it’s better to have a teenage view and younger perspective on it,” said CKHS junior and drama team member Annabelle Havers.

Working as a student director and creating these connections with actors makes for busy after-school hours for Lee. Making their vision of the play come to life requires both extreme attentiveness and dedication to the theater craft.

Lee poses “Charlie’s Angels” style with their sister, donning a headset to communicate with the tech crew, behind the scenes of the production. (Provided by Zee Lee).

“We give notes after we do a full run-through every rehearsal,” Lee said Lee. “After rehearsal we’ll sit down with the actors and tell them everything that could’ve been a little different, or we’ll post the notes to Google Classroom so then all the actors can read over their notes… We’ve done a bit more specific blocking, but we try to limit that as much as possible to give the actors as much creative freedom as we can.”

As Lee’s involvement with the drama team and “Radium Girls” cast strengthened, so did the relationships between them. Despite the awkwardness Lee felt directing peers they once shared a stage with, student actors immediately valued the close-knit collaboration and connection given through this new dynamic.

“I’ve had so many actors and tech people come up to me and tell me how much they’ve really appreciated having a student director,” Lee said. “I’ve had so much of a better time with it than I ever thought I would… There have been some hard things, like directing these people that I have worked alongside for so many years, but the actors have been very understanding and so helpful and so kind and just incredible to work with.”

Every single actor in the show is so committed to making it good. I’m just so proud of them.”

— Zee Lee

Lee’s theatrical spirit, both on stage and behind the curtains, aids in creating an atmosphere that encourages strong work ethic as well as continuous positivity.

“In Willy Wonka [CK’s summer 2022 play], I remember we were just sitting on stage and waiting on the turntable, and we would just go around and around and around and we would just sing our songs while we spinned,” Havers said. “It just shows how fun and positive [Lee] constantly is. There’s never a time where they’re like, ‘oh, I hate this role’ – they’re always very excited about the role no matter what it is, and it shows how hard-working and also fun they are.”

This process has given Lee a place to explore what it means to be a leader and engage in growth as a student director. From the casting process to technical aspects, they have gained theater expertise in more areas than the ones onstage and in the spotlight.

“I’ve always been a leader, but I feel like my leadership skills have grown so much,” said Lee. “I learn a lot about how different parts of theater are run… I feel like I’m getting the secret view of all the ways that theater works, and I just love it. I love learning, especially about something that I’m so passionate about, and it just fuels me to want to keep learning.”

Havers also finds that this role will help further shape Lee’s passion for leadership and theater.

“They’re getting all the dynamics of theater because I know they have a close relationship with tech and they’ve also obviously been an actor,” Havers said. “But now having the director’s side, it’s putting in a very well-rounded theater experience is something that they can take into whatever they want to do, in theater or in filmmaking.”

This new peer-to-peer connection has sparked a flame of interest in Lee as they consider their future in theater.

“Of course I’d love to be on the stage – that’s always my place, but I’m really enjoying student directing,” Lee said. “It’s really fueling me in a way that not a lot of things have. I’m just so passionate about it. I get home from school and it’s all I think about, and I’m so hopeful that I can keep student directing…even if I can’t student direct at CK next year, I hope to at university and when I’m older. I really think I’ve found my thing.”

I really think I’ve found my thing. As much as I love acting, there’s just something to directing that I really love and I want to keep doing for the rest of my life, so I’m hopeful that I’ll get to have that opportunity.”

— Zee Lee

When it comes to involving newcomers in theater to provide them with the same opportunities and chances to flourish – in acting, light and sound, makeup and costuming, set design, and more – Lee strongly encourages simply going for it, reflecting on past experiences that led them to their current role.

“When I went into my freshman year, I was super nervous doing the first show…I knew no one at CK so I was just getting into everything to form these friendships, and I auditioned for the show ‘Our Place,’” Lee said. “I really enjoyed my role and I’ve learned so much since that very first show. I’ve never stopped being grateful for all these wonderful people I’ve gotten to work with – some of my best friends in the entire world are fellow theater kids. So to anyone who is nervous about joining theater, just go for it. It could change your life. It changed mine.”

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About the Contributor
Rosalie Johnson
Rosalie Johnson, Reporter, Editor-in-Chief
Rosalie Johnson is a senior at Central Kitsap High School and is in her fourth year with the journalism program and The Cougar Chronicle. She joined Journalism to connect with her community through education, information, and collaboration, and appreciates the continuous opportunities to improve writing and communication skills that this course offers. Rosalie hopes to pursue a career in journalism following graduation and hopes that this course will help prepare her for this future. Outside of school, Rosalie loves reading, attending concerts, visiting state parks and trails, traveling, and spending time with her loved ones.
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