The pandemic has not been kind to the world of theater, where the adrenalin rush of in-person performances many times gave way to the disembodied experience of online shows.
Fortunately for the Mountain Pointe High School Theatre Company students and faculty, the pandemic didn’t completely shut down live performances during the 2020-21 school year.
“We did do a few shows last year,” said Corey Quinn, a biology teacher who also is the student theater sponsor.
“We were very careful with COVID during rehearsals – masks mandatory, sanitation, etc. As for the show, we only sold 150 of the 900 seats available and spaced out people. There was a dedicated entrance and exit, no food or drink sold, masks mandatory and we moved our lobby outside.”
And the show will again go on with the theater company’s first performance of the 2021-22 school year – a somber but inspiring play that has much significance for Quinn, who is directing.
“Wit” will be presented at the Moutain Pointe High theater, 4201 E. Knox Road, at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17 and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for students.
Mountain Pointe this year is marking 30 years since it first opened its doors. It also was the year Quinn first walked through those doors – as a freshman.
Outside of getting his degree, he has spent 26 of those 30 years at Mountain Pointe.
“Wit” is the first show Quinn directed at the high school in 2000, though its theme is not what anyone would call typical anniversary material – or something that gets one’s mind off a pandemic.
Yet, he said, “It is a powerful show about a woman with stage 4 ovarian cancer.”
“She is a professor of 17th century poetry, and the show is about her experience with cancer and her treatments, while reflecting on her life through the studies of life, death and poetry.”
Quinn considers “Wit” to be “strong, beautiful and even humorous.”
“Anyone who has been affected by cancer can and would appreciate this show. It is intelligent, thoughtful, funny, and beautifully told. It is a drama, and will touch the hearts of anyone who sees it,” he added.
Lots of others think so too. “Wit” won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for drama, earned “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award when it was brought back to Broadway in 2012 and won Emma Thompson kudos for her performance in a 2001 HBO movie version.
In other words, for the students – both on stage and behind the curtain – “Wit” is a chance to shine.
“The set is extremely minimal,” Quinn said. “The focus of the show is on the actors and the story itself. There are a few set pieces, but it most relies on lighting, sound and the actors themselves.”
The show also marks a changing of the guard for the small group of parent boosters who devote time and energy to making sure the kids get the chance to devote their talents to the stage.
Gretchen Murry is taking over as president of the boosters club.
Her son Connor, now a junior at Mountain Pointe, “has been involved in theater since middle school,” she said.
“It’s his passion and so it is my passion. I enjoy seeing Connor and his friends perform and want to be there for my son as well be a part of theater.”
Gretchen herself did some plays in grade school growing up – including the role of Fagen in “Oliver Twist.”
She and other boosters helped with concessions and ticket sales as well as other tasks for the two shows the company was able to mount last school year.
But it wasn’t an easy year.
“The pandemic really took a toll on everyone, as we all know,” Gretchen said. “A lot of things were restricted and it was really hard to get the shows going, so not much was going on. We even had to cancel the haunted house, one of our biggest fundraisers.”
They only had one fundraiser with Crumbl Cookies and made some money on give-back programs maintained by Amazon and Fry’s, but this is a rebuilding year and Murry is hoping parents will be joining her and the other boosters.
Graduation took its inevitable toll of veteran boosters and Murry said those who are still around “are building to get everything back together and making it a stronger booster club with more participants.”
All that, she stresses, is for the kids’ sake.
“I feel like they have missed a lot of Mountain Pointe traditions that all the kids look forward to – thespian festival, banquet and just being involved in more shows.”
She’s upbeat about the future, noting, “The haunted house is coming back. That is our biggest fundraiser and hope to see many people there. It’s always a fun time.”
And she’s hoping people turn out to see “Wit.”
“These students are hungry for performance and want to express their creativity,” she said. “They have been working very hard to perform the best they can to spread awareness and perspective of this very sensitive subject. They wish to perform in front of an audience who will listen, laugh, and cry with them. It is a show worth seeing.”
Quinn seconds that emotion.
He recalled when they could put on their first show earlier this calendar year, “They had been away so long and were so thankful to be back with friends, and doing something away from home and their computers. Each of them understood that at any minute the show could be canceled, but they still wanted to be there.”
Besides, Quinn added, “The best reason to see a show is that it is live, unpredictable, and so much better than the TV. Everyone should support the arts, and this is a great place to start.”
With Maia Pattison following in the footsteps of Cynthia Nixon and Emma Thompson in the lead role of Vivian Bearing, the cast also includes Brody Stolfa, Phoenix Torres, Anissa Moreno and Ireland Hanrahan. The ensemble includes Chase Carter, Griffin Weber, Lucianna Navarro, Constance Kelly, Connor Murphy and Molly Corbin.
The crew is led by technical director Trevor Perry and includes Prima Fombo, Courtney Stinson, Loui Mendoza, Rueben Martin, Kyra Deeney, Clarissa Frommelt, April Conyers, Zoe Shaw, Breyonah Owens, Olivia Pattison, Makayla Blunt, Hannah Kinsman, Teresa Guenther, Lilliana Lopez, Berlin Jacobson and Ryan Martin.