No Hesitation: A Look Into Poppiti’s Play


Anthony Barone

Playwrite Jake Poppiti (above) works tirelessly to revise She Who Hesitates, ensuring that his first ever thriller takes the stage without a hitch.

Jake Augustus Poppiti is a household name in the Salesianum community. He’s an active figure, spearheading and taking part in events, activities, and clubs, including being the youth governor of Delaware. This time, however, the youth governor has taken up a new project – one that sets a precedent. If there’s anything one can learn from this precedent, it’s that a person’s creative limits are boundless.

The play ​She Who Hesitates​ sets this precedent. Written by Poppiti and produced by Ursuline senior Ellen Schlecht, it’s the first student-run production in about 25 years. In fact, the last performance to take the stage was when Mr. Crawford directed the school’s theatre company, and when it had a student-run program. This program ended with the emergence of the current theatre director, Mr. Bogad, and his more “contemporary” and “abstract” style of directing. However, it seems Mr. Bogad doesn’t want to fully let go of tradition; he wants to “reintegrate the program into the theatre curriculum.” In terms of his role, Poppiti calls himself “just a starting part of this program” – an essential facet, considering he was the first to jump at the idea.

As much of a leader as he is, Poppiti admits this is his first time in “a leadership role of this nature.” He’s without a doubt nervous about directing for the first time. “If I can succeed in this, then there’s hope for the future, I suppose, and if I don’t, well, God knows how the program’s gonna go,” he explains. He and Schlect are both learning as they go along. This can sometimes be hard, since having someone “above” them gives them a sense of guidance.

Still, what Poppiti lacks in experience he more than makes up for in creativity, present in him from an early age. As a kid, his dad would play for him a vintage mystery channel, Classic Radio, on Sirius XM, fostering in him a love of mystery and an interest in the 1940’s. “That was like the sort of era of both mystique and a little bit of corruption I enjoy,” Poppiti proudly states. He also grew up reading authors George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Chausseur. “I always had lots of ideas for many stories, lots of medieval stuff,” he says. Eventually, those “ideas” became a story – a morph of the mystery of the 1940’s, medieval romance, and violence from both eras.

The play, a spy thriller, revolves around different secret factions vying to obtain a single note, the Gailwith Document, for reasons unknown. Among these factions are a “polite but slightly mysterious” narrator, an assassin, and a mysterious organization, the Coterie of Misdeeds. It’s set in a crime town after WWII at the outbreak of the Cold War, and “there’s tons of espionage.” In it, Poppiti highlights those who thrived off the violence of the war, and were kept by the government for their potential use. “You don’t need to kill them, you just need to contain them,” explains Poppiti. Other than a basic overview, Poppiti leaves the story open ended: “As the story develops, one can sort of make their own conclusions and opinions about various characters and scenes.” That’s not to say there aren’t objective facts, but the audience can make many interpretations.

Aside from ambition and creativity, Poppiti’s honesty stands out. That is, he makes sure to give his producer plenty of credit. “It wasn’t more of a charge [on his part]… It was more of… Ellen Schlecht came to me and said, ‘Hey, Jake… It’s gonna be our senior year. Let’s do a play.’ This was the beginning of my junior year.” Schlecht gave him the idea and together they went forward. “I was like, ‘Hey, I have all this… I’ve got the show’… [Schlect’s response] ‘Alright, let’s run with it.’” Their teamwork allowed the idea to get as far as it did.

Indeed, everyone contributing to the show displays qualities of teamwork. Poppiti and Schlect, the bulk of the staff, direct the play and arrange the schedule, in addition to providing roles of their own; the cast members perform multiple roles and stick with their directors for the long haul. “Mr. Bogad, he gave us the job, and he’s going to offer some resources to us…but for the main part, it has been myself, it’s been the actors, and it’s been Ellen.” This self-reliance has made the group more cohesive; they’ve become a family. If they keep up their hard work, there’s little doubt ​She Who Hesitates ​will be a success.