Students put on a scare at annual Haunted Woods

Students+in+Drama+Club+act+at+annual+Haunted+Woods.

Photo by Kaylie Donahue

Students in Drama Club act at annual Haunted Woods.

As nighttime falls over the Londonderry Town Common, a haunting presence is felt in the woods. The leaves crack under heavy footsteps and monsters are heard from all around. In flashes behind the trees, glimpses of figures are seen dripping in blood. In a sudden clearing, the woods disappear. The LHS Drama Club has successfully immersed you in their interactive Halloween performance: Haunted Woods.

Haunted Woods has been an annual production from the Drama Club and brings in hundreds of eager residents from Londonderry and neighboring towns each year. This year, music teacher Joseph Mundy took the reins to lead the production.

I was lucky to work alongside my colleague Danielle Loschiavo, and we had a lot of help from Mr. Beaulieu and a number of parents, so everything felt pretty manageable this year,” Mundy said. “It was fun putting it together.”

Sophomore Arden Rynasko participated in Haunted Woods for the first time this year playing Conrad, the wood’s residential frat zombie. Rynasko has a small background in drama and performing, and found joy in doing it this year.

“I went to the first drama meeting and just signed myself up,” Rynasko said. “I really liked watching it in middle school, so I’m glad I could do it this year.”

The Haunted Woods actors have the choice of three potential acts: a skit actor, a woods’ scarer, or a resident of the Goblin Garden to be with the children who come through. Having this freedom, the actors can choose their specialty, which makes the experience more enjoyable and surreal across the board.

“The students were absolutely the best part of Haunted Woods,” Mundy said. “Despite taking a year off, they all came into it with great ideas and organization. They were very easy to work with and were the primary factor behind the success of the event.”

Taking the lead on this production, Mundy felt no added pressure returning to the woods after losing the performance last year due to Covid. In a collective decision, the Haunted Woods venue was moved to the Londonderry commons; Mundy felt they made it “visible for the Londonderry community.”

“I always want to do everything I can to make sure my students have successful experiences,” Mundy said. “We were able to make everything work out pretty easily. We had a big crowd every night and it was just great to see so many people coming out to check it out and hang around.”

Over the course of three nights, the Drama Club works to provide the best experience for all that travel through the Haunted Woods. In order to prepare, the actors write a simple story line, and then adjust their performance to tailor those they see. Ryansko said he enjoyed being “on [his] own terms” during performing.

“I can mess more with the character I’m supposed to be playing,” Ryansko said. “[My group] realized halfway through the first night that [our act] was kind of long and a little bit boring, so we just came up with something else off the top of our heads.”

It is this action of improv that moves Mundy to continue his work with Haunted Woods. Mundy says there are plans for a “bigger and better” Haunted Woods next year—with more haunts and freights than ever.

“I just enjoy seeing the drama club members having fun and enjoying themselves,” Mundy said. “It’s always interesting to see what kind of ideas they come up with.”

With the success of the Haunted Woods production this year, all eyes look to next season’s run. Ryansko welcomes all who want to join in the frighteningly good fun next year, and to not be scared of the prospect of performing.

I would say go for it,” Ryansko said. “Everyone in the club is so welcoming, so finding people you want to work with isn’t difficult.”

The LHS Drama Club’s quality production this season has been a standout this year. Mundy gives all credit to the actors, actresses, aides, and supporters who helped with Haunted Woods this year, and holds high hopes for the next production.

“I just want them to know that I feel very fortunate to work with them,” Mundy said. “It was their hard work and great ideas that made the event such a success.”

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