By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Company plans to have a full theatrical season this year in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
According to Groveport Madison High School Theatre Director Erin McLaughlin, the shows will be available to audiences virtually and patrons may visit cruisertheatre.weebly.com for information on how to access the shows.
“We will have online ticket sales for the first time this year and, once a patron buys a ticket through the system the first time, they will start getting emails about all of our shows as we put information about them online through our new online platform,” said McLaughlin.
The fall play
The Cruiser Theatre Company will perform “Les Examables,” by Don Zolidis, as this year’s fall play.
“It is a parody of ‘Les Miserables’ set in a high school where the students are rebelling against standardized testing,” said McLaughlin. “There are a few parodies of major songs from ‘Les Miserables’ in this show, as well.”
McLaughlin said they are designing a show-specific site where patrons can purchase tickets and merchandise and access a virtual playbill. She said “Les Examables” will be available for online streaming on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. (as of right now).
“I believe our license will allow me to leave the recording up for on-demand streaming for two weeks,” said McLaughlin.
Tickets for “Les Examables” will be available online and will cost $7 per person. Purchasing a ticket will prompt an automated confirmation email that includes a unique link to the web-based stream of the production. This link may only be opened on one device at a time. The Cruiser Theatre Company is also accepting donations through its online platform.
“Because of COVID-19, we are not having any live audiences until further notice,” said McLaughlin. “Restrictions are such that we cannot have more than 10 people in the auditorium at a time, even to rehearse, and even that will not be possible until we move to hybrid instruction. The cast of the show is larger than that, so in the event that we get to have in-person rehearsals, we will be recording the play in sections and editing that together for the performance that we will then stream to the public virtually.”
Health safety precautions are in place for the student performers, including strict rules about hand washing and sanitation. Masks must be worn at all times while in the building for rehearsals/recording. No more than 30 minutes of singing may occur at once without taking a break to wait for the HVAC system to cycle all of the air in the space. Props will be sanitized before and after each use. Students are responsible for maintaining and cleaning their own costumes. Casting is flexible, so in case a student must drop out of the show due to illness, roles can be re-allocated among the remaining cast.
When asked why the Cruiser Theatre Company chose to perform “Les Examables,” Mclaughlin said, “Because the script is hilarious, I’ve had positive experiences working with this playwright before, and because it looked like something I could make work in a virtual setting. I have since discovered we do have some challenges I was not initially aware of in mounting this production in a virtual format, but I’m committed to making it work. We could all use a little levity right now, and frankly, the show is too over-the-top ridiculous for anyone to take it seriously. With its parodies of well-known songs and its homage to ‘Les Miserables,’ I hope our audiences will enjoy it as much as the students and I are enjoying working on it so far.”
The lead actors for “Les Examables,” are Jozlin Taylor (playing Anna Ullman), Alyssa Brown (playing Lola), and Kayla Bandy (playing Blake).
“Many students in the show are playing multiple smaller roles, as well,” said McLaughlin. “It’s truly a team effort. Jozlin is a really sweet, responsible person with great talent and instincts as an actor. She is also serving as the troupe president this year. Alyssa is a natural in front of a camera and has been doing acting training outside of school for the past couple years. She has a lot of energy and is a joy to work with. This is Kayla’s second year with the theatre program, and she really impressed me in her audition for this show.”
•McLaughlin is planning to hold a playwriting contest to generate student-written plays for the Cruiser Theatre Company to produce as a showcase for its winter production, which they aim to perform Jan. 15 and 16 as of now.
“The goal is to have four or five student-written plays, each 10 to 15 minutes long, and all relating in some way to a theme of mystery and/or 1980s/1990s sitcom,” said McLaughlin.
•The future of the “Play in a Day” is uncertain and dependent on what happens with COVID-19, according to McLaughlin.
“If ‘Play in a Day’ cannot happen, I’m looking to have a virtual evening of improv instead in mid-February.” she said.
•McLaughlin said the future of a spring musical is uncertain. She had wanted to produce “Beauty and the Beast” this year, but, she said, “short of a miracle, that’s probably not going to happen.”
“I am in the process of choosing a musical with a cast of nine or fewer to produce if we are in a hybrid situation January-April and the show would be performed the last weekend of March,” said McLaughlin.
She is open to suggestions for a musical meeting the above criteria and community members can email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In the event that we do produce a musical, we are registered to be adjudicated by CAPA and for our performers to be eligible for the CAPA Marquee Awards in May,” said McLaughlin.
The importance of student theatre
McLaughlin said one of her goals for the year is to try to have virtual get-togethers and other safe ways for students to connect with one another.
“For many students who participate in the theatre program, this is why they come to school,” she said. “It’s their social group, their safety net, in some cases their raison d’être. The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but time is the one thing our students don’t have and I don’t want our art form or the theatre family to fall by the wayside as another casualty of COVID-19. The show must go on, as they say, and this year, the show must go online.”