Brendan Connell was so influenced by his theater experience at Woodstock High School that he pursued film directing in college. A desire to give back to the program that steered his career path has led him back to the stage at WHS to direct students who will perform Connell’s original work “The Bhagavans” at the Black Box Theater.
“I owe [the theater] department everything,” said Connell, a member of WHS’ Thespian Troupe 991.
A 2010 WHS graduate, Connell said he became interested in Hindu mythology during high school and he wrote a screenplay. He has since converted it into a stage show and he pitched the idea of staging the show to WHS theater director Tony Walker.
He simplified the screenplay to a bare-bones storytelling format that he compared to reader’s theater, black box or Noh theater.
“It seemed natural to me,” said Connell. “I remembered what I had done in high school.”
He said the storyline of “The Bhagavans” is fantastical in nature and he described the setting as follows: “Dark times have come and mankind’s only hope lies in the latest reincarnation of a god that has appeared throughout history to save the world, but uncertainty has seized him and the avatar must be reminded of his past lives and heroic deeds in order to be inspired for the last great battle.”
Described as a skeleton cast, the show features five actors with multiple roles.
“The actors wear many hats, moving in and out of stories to blur the lines and draw comparisons,” said Connell.
Walker said various alumni have returned to share their experiences in workshops and private conversations, but this is his first opportunity to have a now-adult student return to lead a production.
Walker said in an email, “It means the world to me that he would come back to share his gifts and talents here. I think it is a very important element to the educational cycle. That Brendan had an opportunity to grow in this school, head out and learn more from the world and now bring that knowledge back to the place that nurtured him to help others mature and reach beyond the school’s walls, that is the point of education.”
Connell is currently living in Woodstock and working as a freelance filmmaker.
“I’d be happy to come back to try other shows. I’m curious to see where this goes,” he said.
Show times for “The Bhagavans” are 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, in the theater located in the school at 501 W. South St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens. For reservations, call 815-337-4370.