November 17, 2023

Love & Laughter On Stage

In November, Oakwood High School Performing Arts took center stage with Sarah Ruhl’s thought-provoking play, “The Clean House.” Directed by Oakwood teacher Javier Rivera, the production delves into the pursuit of love beyond societal expectations. Javier reflects on the significance of having a female playwright’s voice on Oakwood’s stage. Acknowledging the impact of a predominantly female-identifying Performing Arts Department, Javier expressed the joy of telling stories that resonated with the performers. Rivera also shares his insight, noting that the play challenges audiences to reconsider the true sources of happiness and fulfillment. “What Sarah Ruhl brings to our stage is a story about class, elitism, and how those who find themselves in the periphery of that sphere sometimes choose to hover further away from that epicenter to find a wealth of love that a lot of us lack.” 

Designing Atmosphere: Lighting and Costumes

The play’s artistic elements are crucial in bringing Ruhl’s vision to life. Ninah ‘24 describes her approach to costume design for the play. “When creating the first designs, I used the concepts of visual complexity vs minimalism to contrast each character’s wealth, culture, and lifestyle. Additionally, I color-blocked the relationships between the characters to ensure that the outfits reflected each person’s evolution through the show.”

Oakwood Performing Arts teacher Sarah Moretz explains that the lighting design facilitated a stark contrast between the internal space of the house and the external scenes. “Warm white lighting inside the house softened the stage’s bright white tones, while Act 2 introduced more saturated colors during moments of magical realism,” she shares. 

Navigating Space Challenges: Scenic/Crew Accomplishments

One of the biggest challenges faced by the production team was space limitations. Sarah elaborates on the importance of creativity and attention to tiny details to elevate the performance. “We are not the Mark Taper, but this production deserved to be elevated to that caliber considering the mature and universally human themes that the students were bringing to our audience.” Attention to detail, even in seemingly minor actions like opening a curtain or presetting props, proved integral to the storytelling. The stage and booth crews excelled in conveying these nuances.

Delving into Tragic-Comic Themes

So much of the play centers on Matilde’s tragic-comic history and the quest to create the funniest joke of all time—a joke that is never told and is instead left to audience interpretation. Elisabeth ‘24 shares that “personally, I think the joke has Charles at the center of it, as it was formed when he ran off after Ana left to go swimming.” She adds that, like Virginia, she enjoys cleaning and feels more productive when her space is organized. One challenge that she faced during this process was resisting the urge to laugh on stage. “The script is very funny and cleverly written, and at times I struggled with not laughing at jokes in scenes I was a part of. The joke isn’t funny if the actors are in on it, and that was something that I had to learn.”

Oakwood’s production of “The Clean House” transcended the stage, inviting the audience to reflect on societal norms, the pursuit of love, and the unexpected sources of joy in the face of life’s complexities. The collaborative effort of the cast and crew, coupled with insightful direction, turned the play into a captivating exploration of the human experience.

Congrats to the entire cast and crew, and Oakwood teacher, Javier Rivera.


  • Lane: Malia ’25
  • Matilde: Elisabeth ’24
  • Virginia: Lila ’24 and Nora ’26
  • Charles: Jackson ’24 and Sayle ’25
  • Ana: Pearl ’24 and Tuesday ’25
  • STAGE MANAGER: Nora ’24
  • ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGERS: Brady ’26 and Franny ’25
  • COMPOSER: Maxwell ’25
  • STAGE CREW: Jenna ’27, Milo ’25, and Tommy ’25


  • Director: Javier Rivera
  • Technical Director/Scenic/Lighting Design: Sarah Moretz
  • Assistant Technical Director: Steph Zushi
  • Costume Design Team Mentor: Johnnyangel Pineda
  • Dialect Coach: Malu Bezerra
  • Sound Design Mentor: Becca Kessin