We are just 10 days away from opening night of this year’s Winter Musical, Into the Woods. When it comes to takeaways, Vanya Shah ’25 thinks it’s very possible that audiences will come away with wildly different perspectives—and that’s just fine by her. Vanya plays the role of the Narrator, so don’t be surprised to see her breaking the fourth wall in her surprising and delightful performance. In the fall, Vanya can be found playing varsity soccer, and during the springtime, she is racing along in varsity track and field. But we are in the midst of winter, and so, for now, Vanya can be found onstage.
And for all those moments in between? Vanya enjoys a good board game, summiting a mountain or two, and always, always, a good book. She is editor of the Parker Road Review and The Pingry Record. If you’re looking for a good cafeteria menu recommendation, she recommends the rice bowls.
Will you be there opening night? Be sure to tell Vanya what you think…
How would you describe the musical Into the Woods?
Into the Woods is definitely surprising. We start off with fairytale characters whom everyone knows and adores, setting up an idyllic, predictable storyline. But the show takes twists and turns that are sometimes delightful, sometimes tragic. More than just the surface-level fairytales, the story also explores deeper themes like family, accountability, and growth. One thing is certain—if you come to the show expecting a nice, simple, happily-ever-after ending, you will be very surprised.
You play the role of the Narrator. Why does Into the Woods need a narrator? Tell us what we can expect from your role and how you fit into the world of this musical.
The narrator is more than just a storyteller that keeps the audience engaged. She’s the puppet master that keeps the entire story on track. Without the narrator, the characters would have no way to know what comes next in their story and the entire plot line would fall apart. The narrator ensures all the characters are where they need to be, when they need to be there, with what they need to have. After all, we don’t want to live in a world of chaos.
As the Narrator, does it feel strange talking directly to the audience?
As actors, we talk a lot about the role of the fourth wall in a show. Should we break it and, if we are, why are we breaking it? I never felt that talking to the audience was strange because that’s the narrator’s role. It makes sense because someone always has to be on the outside, helping the story along. Without the narration, both the audience and the characters would be lost.
What inspires you about this cast and crew?
This year’s cast and crew are so talented and so engaged with the show. The seniors are working so hard on their last musical at Pingry, and it really inspires the rest of the cast to perform our best. It’s also really wonderful to see so many underclassmen taking part this year. They add so much life and energy to the production. Most of all, I love seeing people who wouldn’t normally take part in theater expand their horizons and push themselves out of their comfort zone.
For those who have yet to catch the acting bug, tell us what is so magical about performing on the stage?
I love performing on stage because I get a chance to bring some of my favorite characters to life, allowing me to share the way I interpret a person in a story with a larger community. Acting also allows me to step into someone else’s skin for a little bit. I think that experience brings me a lot of perspective that I can apply off the stage as well.
What do you hope to take from this experience? And what do you hope audiences will take from it?
Into the Woods is a really complex and unique show, to the point where I think 100 different people could watch it and come away with 100 different takeaways. I just hope that all of our audience members walk away with an understanding of how much work and effort the cast and crew have put into the show. And I hope everyone really enjoys it! I know I did!
Be sure to get your tickets at pingry.org/tickets so you can catch amazing performances by Vanya Shah and the entire cast and crew in this year's Winter Musical, Into The Woods.
Portrait by Flex photographer Aiden de Asla '24
Contact: Sara Courtney, Communications Writer