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Sandy Journal

Sandy high school theatre directors remain flexible as season begins amidst COVID-19

Oct 21, 2020 01:32PM ● By Julie Slama

aterford high school students performed “The Scarlet Pimpernel” in late February before the school went on soft closure. (Photo courtesy of Waterford School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

With school in session, theatre students have returned to the stage in what they hope will be a complete season of shows.

“We’re facing new challenges and are being flexible,” said Jordan High theatre director Suzie Duval.

This means for both Jordan and Alta high schools, moving the fall musical to the springtime, to allow for more planning and preparation.

Jordan High will open with Shakespeare, performing a scene from “Henry V” in the 44th annual high school Shakespeare Festival, which will be held virtually.

Duval plans to split the parts up by class, keeping rehearsals small, to about 20 students.

“It’s a little stressful, but it’s working out OK. Our kids have a positive attitude and know we can pull this off together,” she said.

They also hope to put on “Twelfth Night” at the high school with about 30 students, which she plans to rehearse in small scenes so students, wearing performance masks, can practice socially distanced from one another.

“We have permission for our dress rehearsal and performance to perform without masks, but we’ll be doing whatever feels safe for the kids,” she said.

Jordan’s “A Night of Shakespeare” will be performed at 7 p.m., Sept. 28, in possibly their auditorium, or perhaps, livestreamed. Their free performance of “Twelfth Night” will be performed at 7 p.m., Oct. 27-30, with the same venue plans, as Jordan and Alta high schools are following guidelines where they will only have 25% of the auditorium filled with patrons.

Alta High also plans to perform for the virtual Shakespeare Festival, with a scene from Act I from “Henry VI.”

“We’re doing the part where he gives a speech about red and white and why they hate each other and can’t get along,” Alta director Linze Struiksma said. “It gives us relevance to today. We can still love and get along even if we don’t have the same perspective.”

School performances are set for 7 p.m., the week of Nov. 9.

Struiksma is grateful that they decided to push back their musical as the new performing arts center at Alta High was completed during the soft closure of school and this will allow extra time for students to figure out how to work the new equipment without the stress of needing to put on a major show at the same time.

Javen Tanner, Waterford School’s dean of arts and theater department, said his school also begins the school year with Shakespeare. 

The middle school has 17 students performing “A Winter’s Tale,” with performances set for 7 p.m., Oct. 16-17 and 19 and again at 3 p.m., Oct. 17 in their black box theatre. Tickets are $6 and are available at the school’s office.

Many of the actors are double-cast and rehearsals only include students who are practicing on that day, Tanner said. 

“We had fewer auditions because of concerns surrounding COVID-19, but we are masked during rehearsals and socially distant,” he added. “Shakespeare blocked his plays without a set, so we’ll be using a large blank space so we can perform with as much distance as possible.”

Waterford’s upper school students were awaiting the announcement of its first show, also one written by Shakespeare, at press deadline.

However, instead of performing in an auditorium, Tanner was looking at holding the high school show as a theatre-in-the-round, performed in the large parking lot east of the school.

“Families can drive up and watch it, tuning into their radios to hear the actors, and still, keeping socially distant,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool show, but this would be spectacular in its own way.”

Tanner is planning on holding the show multiple nights in mid-November. In case of inclement weather, it would be moved into the school’s concert hall.

Currently, Tanner, who teaches nine different drama classes during the school year, hasn’t chosen a winter play, instead he is “waiting to see how the year unfolds.” 

Struiksma said that while she is still making some decisions on their season, she does plan to hold auditions in November for “A Little Mermaid,” to be performed in the late winter or early spring.

“This year, my approach is whatever will fit in and kids can enjoy, then that’s what we’re doing. I want kids to be in class every day and not be pulled emotionally with everything that’s going on,” she said. “‘A Little Mermaid’ is family friendly, a fun voice, and will give a big bang, a spectacular, to our new auditorium.” 

Jordan students are planning to put on “A Night of Broadway” at 7 p.m., Dec. 15 and be double-casted in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which is set for 7 p.m., Feb. 17-20 and Feb. 22. Jordan students also hope to compete in region and state. 

Last year, they were able to perform the one-act “Lifeboat,” written by student Nathan Holley, before the competition was shut down in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my students in drama council,” Jordan High’s Duval said. “They’ve worked all summer to clean and organize the costume room, making it COVID-friendly, met over Google Meet to choose our musical and shows and figured out how to have students follow safety protocols, and planned this year’s activities, procedures and socials.”