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Sandy Journal

Alta theater students learn to hang onto the wild ride this year

May 17, 2021 11:38AM ● By Julie Slama

Alta High theatre students performed “The Little Mermaid” this winter in the school’s new Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Alta High theatre department)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It’s been a roller coaster year for Alta theater students and their director Linze Struiksma, but as the season has had its ups and downs, they’ve learned to hang on for the ride.

From the get-go, Alta students were uncertain about requirements to perform this year, but excited to be on stage in their new performing arts center, which was completed during last spring’s mandatory soft closure of schools during the initial impact of COVID-19.

They moved their musical, “The Little Mermaid,” from fall to winter and instead performed a showcase about love and connections that the students could perform in small groups to reduce the chance of exposure during the pandemic.

“We were looking at our season with several pushbacks, quarantines, shutdowns—and we knew this would be a really different year,” Struiksma said.

With their musical’s performance, came the positive welcome back from the Alta community.

“These kids were willing to do it and work really hard to do it. We were so stoked to just do a full show with a live audience again. They did really, really well and heard positive feedback from our community,” she said. “It was great to work with nice equipment and a beautiful setting.”

With that experience came a rush of emotions, Struiksma said.

“Some were really excited, others were stressed. Some feared it would be canceled so they needed motivation. There certainly has been different feelings we’re working through, not just stage fright or butterflies,” she said.

In late March, 28 students were rehearsing again—perfecting their region pieces which were selected to move on to state. Regional competition held one-acts in-person and individual events were videotaped and submitted. 

Even with individual events being virtual, the students won Sweepstakes, placing first overall. They also grabbed third place for their student-written one-act with Dylan Thomas being named best actor and Caleb Christensen earning the best supporting actor award. Twelve students also medaled, placing in the top three.

The April 17 state competition was slated to be in-person.

“We have a shot to do well,” Struiksma said. “All our seniors are moving on and we’re working on our pieces today, talking about our goals and making sure we get on it. We want to make sure we’re our best and hit it.” 

In between region and state, 15 students performed two shows of an hour-long murder mystery and then, the theatre season of ups and downs will finish in May with Theatre 4 students directing a younger cast in one-act plays, giving upcoming students a chance to have some leading parts and older students, a chance to direct, she said.

“We welcome students who have an interest and often have some trying theatre for the first time and it’s a wonderful leadership role for our seniors who have some experience,” Struiksma said. “We’ve had a lot to juggle this year and it’s taken more energy to rehearse in masks and give 110%. I’ll be a ready for a nap after this year.”