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Lisa Marie Stearns, P ’20, ’22 Brings the Sparkle to Xaverian Theater

by Jacob Fitzpatrick ’23 #XBCorps

Mrs. Lisa Marie Stearns, P ’20, ’22, has played an integral part in Xaverian’s theater program for the past five years, and is warmly remembered by all actors who have had the pleasure to work with her. Communications Corps member Jacob Fitzpatrick '23 offers his thoughts here.

As I walk off stage, I am met with silence that speaks volumes. In the cramped backstage area, actors are frantically flipping through the script, others are preparing themselves to get on stage, and the crew is moving around all the props. I go to the greenroom for my costume change and see the mercilessly destroyed cheese plate and the empty “naughty bench” that will surely be populated at the start of the next show. Despite all of the chaos, no one is moving faster than one mom who is always backstage, Mrs. Lisa Marie Stearns, P ’20, ’22. Though her pace is frenetic, she’s efficient and meticulous in all she does, and always perfectly put together. Mrs. Stearns gives me my button up shirt, puts on my scarf, and moves onto more important changes—like the problem children. 

Mrs. Stearns is the producer and costume designer for the Xaverian theater department, most recently producing the fall 2022 musical, Holiday Inn. Having been here since 2018, she’s embedded in the Xaverian theater culture and has become a core part of every show. She’s the originator of our quirky terms like the notorious “naughty bench” and the title “problem child.” No one ever wants to find themselves on the naughty bench. “It is a bench,” she says with subtle humor, “for students who routinely forget to bring in elements of their costumes just to annoy me.” When someone is put on the naughty bench, it is the theater equivalent of being pilloried and having tomatoes thrown at you. Surprisingly, being a problem child is not bad. It’s an affectionate term. She says, “It’s when Ms. O’Connor (Xaverian’s theater director) has someone playing many roles with multiple changes and sometimes of different genders, and no time to make those changes.” Both terms are now used commonly by everyone working on the show.

During rehearsals, Mrs. Stearns is never sitting still. She’s always pulling people backstage to try something on, or helping the actors with quick changes, or huddling with Ms. O’Connor discussing set or logistical challenges. Some of her hardest costume switches were a full costume change in the dark for Curtains, and in Something Rotten!, when she had to change the Middle Ages shirt off recent graduate Matthew Martucci ’22. Being built like the defensive end he was, this was no small feat. She says that she also finds any of the large ensemble numbers hard to dress. “In Holiday Inn, for example, all 15 Xaverian cast members were in and out of full tuxedos four times – that’s a lot of bowties and white shirts to keep track of,” she says. Despite the troubles, there is fun to be had. One of her favorite costumes she has done was for Newsies. The main news boy in the number Brooklyn's Here had to look big and strong, but the actor himself was skinny. No problem! Mrs. Stearns simply drew creases on his arms to look like muscles and dressed him in a tough guy white leather costume. She also enjoyed working on all of the costumes for The Odd Couple. Understudies were used for that show, and even though multiple people had to play the same character, the actors’ individual personalities changed how she dressed each of them.  

She started working the green room during Singing in the Rain in 2018, and after that was asked to produce by Ms. Julianne O’Connor, Xaverian’s theater arts teacher and director. Recalling the first year, she says “There were no costumers available for our first show, so I kind of slipped into that additional roll and have never left.” Having worked as a television and film producer up until she had her children, Mrs. Stearns says she recognized the rare talent O’Connor brings to the theater program. “Most directors are complete creatives; they have great vision, but aren’t super organized and can’t always connect with the performers. Jullianne is both extremely organized and has very high creative standards, as seen by the level of shows she chooses and by what she is able to get the kids to produce. I love being part of that process by supporting her creative vision and the kids in any way I can.” Though both her sons have graduated, she continues working with the Xaverian theater program. She says that theater was such a big part of her boys’ experiences and she enjoys giving that experience to others. Now her daughter Faye Stearns (Montrose School '24) is getting in on the action, taking on the role of Lila Dixon in Holiday Inn

The amount of effort, knowledge, and most importantly patience she brings to each production enables the department to be as great as it is. Mrs. Stearns is never one to take the credit though, and she is quick to thank others who work on the shows with her, such as Mrs. Christina Sheridan, P ’22, who serves as a fellow costume designer, and their “fearless leader,” Ms. O’Connor. Mrs. Stearns says she’s loved witnessing the growth of this program at Xaverian under Ms. O’Connor’s tutelage and she looks forward to how it will expand in the future.  

Despite the expression, “the show must go on,” as one of Mrs. Stearns’s “problem children” myself, I can confidently say they might not go on without her help…or at least I might not. Tech week for Holiday Inn was high-stress with last-minute costume decisions and changes, and she walked me through it with the most patience she could muster. For that, I am so grateful. 
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Xaverian is a Catholic, college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7-12. As an inclusive community, we embrace diverse experiences and perspectives, welcoming students and families from all faiths and backgrounds. Through exceptional academics, athletics, the arts, faith formation, and service opportunities, we help young men discover their unique gifts and talents so they can share them with a world in need.