By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Company’s Winter Showcase production will feature short plays written by students.
“We had a playwriting contest to create the content for this production,” said Groveport Madison High School Theatre Director Erin McLaughlin. “The troupe voted on themes of 1980s and 1990s sitcoms and/or mysteries. All of the student-written plays appearing in this showcase fit the mystery theme and three of the four are murder mysteries. Our student playwrights are creative and talented and I am impressed with the quality and scope of their submissions. All four student playwrights are also serving as co-directors for the shows they wrote.”
The Cruiser Theatre Company’s Winter Showcase contains these four student-written pieces, each estimated to be no more than 15 minutes long when performed:
• “Gambler’s Flunk,” by Alejandro Hernandez Carranza. A happy couple purchases a house and starts to build their life together, but then a recession strikes and they find themselves in dire financial straits, leading to a series of unfortunate decisions, insurmountable debt, and a tragic ending.
• “The Judge,” by Chloe Troyer. A man named is accused of murder after he went to his ex’s house to get his stuff back and found a dead body behind the couch. A women named Arianna goes over to the house to find clues from the murder scene for the court hearing. Somebody is trying to get Alex in trouble.
• “Coming Out Gone Horribly Wrong,” by Andrew Osborn. It is about Kai, a 16-year-old gay high school student who comes out to his dad unintentionally and things take a turn for the worse. Did Kai take his life or did his father kill him because he was a “disgrace?”
• “Slick Nick,” by Ashton Diendl. Slick Nick is a wacky detective who sounds and looks like a detective from a movie from the 1950s, and his partner, Sam, who is much more down to earth. A man has been killed in his house. His wife tells the detectives. Will they solve the murder? Will the culprit be arrested?
“These plays were selected due to the quality of the writing, the relative unity of their themes – in that they all contain an element of mystery – and the variety of roles they provide for our student actors,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin said she decided to try the student-written showcase idea last winter before the pandemic started.
“The troupe was invited to attend a theatre festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in summer 2021, and going would require a massive fundraising effort,” said McLaughlin. “Every time we perform a play, we spend around $500 on performance rights and scripts going through a publishing company. With student-written work, those costs don’t apply, and so it was a great way to help save money for the theatre festival.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Our dreams of attending the theatre festival were dashed, as so many other things have been this year. I kept the playwriting contest as a way to get students more involved and invested in our program and also because it allows more flexibility with the ever-shifting situation related to the pandemic. Because the playwrights opted to stay involved as co-directors through the production process, we are able to make adjustments to scripts on the fly to fit the needs of our 100 percent virtual production environment, which has been extraordinarily helpful in a time when producing theatre is, in many ways, more challenging than it has ever been before.”
Performance dates for the Winter Showcase are Jan. 22 and 23 at 7 p.m.
“I am looking into making the show available for on-demand streaming for a week after the premiere on Jan. 22,” said McLaughlin. “Details will be available as the situation evolves at our website, cruisertheatre.weebly.com . Tickets will be $5 for this production, which includes fees applied by our streaming service.”
She said, as with last fall’s play, “Les Examables,” Cruiser Theater Company will not host a live audience for the Winter Showcase.
“We partnered with On The Stage to stream our show online,” said McLaughlin. “Once our show website is complete, it will be linked to our troupe website. There, audiences will be able to purchase tickets and review what is essentially a virtual playbill. Upon the purchase of a ticket, an audience member will receive a confirmation email containing a secure link to view our production. This link will only work on one device at a time. Because we have to produce this showcase in a 100 percent virtual setting, we will be producing it as a radio play.”
Future productions in 2021
McLaughlin said plans are for the Play in a Day to be replaced by an Evening of Improv, to take place near Valentine’s Day.
“We don’t think it’s going to be possible, with the ongoing pandemic, to spend the night in the high school this year, but the plan is more or less for students to submit improv sketch ideas to me in January and early February, and depending on our situation in mid-February, we will either livestream or record and stream the improv performances to audiences in the comfort of their own homes,” said McLaughlin.
Regarding the spring musical, McLaughlin said they decided to replace the spring musical with a spring play.
“I do not want to be in a situation where we’re 100 percent virtual and trying to produce a musical as I do not believe we could produce quality work in those circumstances,” said McLaughlin. “Our spring play will be ‘Hammered: A Thor and Loki Play,’ by Christian Borle (presented through Concord Theatricals), which is written in a way that I think it can be successfully produced regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves in the coming months.”
Performance dates for the spring play are March 25-28, at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
“But if I’m able to make it available for on-demand streaming for a week after the premiere, I will definitely do that. Flexibility is key right now,” said McLaughlin.