Moffat County theater program to make dramatic return with ‘Saving the Greeks’
For Craig Press
The last time the members of the Moffat County High School drama program were ready for showtime, society was just about to get very used to wearing masks. This time around, the local young thespians will be donning a more classic facial gear: comedy and tragedy.
The Bulldog theater program comes back with a flair this week with the premiere of “Saving the Greeks: One Tragedy at a Time,” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as a 1:30 p.m. Saturday matinee at the MCHS auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.
Admission is $7 per person.
The stage play by Jason Pizzarello focuses on hapless heroes Dialysis and Peon (Jessica Womble, Nevaeh Allen) as they navigate familiar premises and personalities within the world of ancient Greek theater and mythology.
The show must go on?
Besides the usual excitement of the spring play, the cast and crew of “Saving the Greeks” are doubly thrilled to be back in the auditorium, especially those who were part of the 2020 murder mystery “Clue.”
In a cruel twist of fate worthy of Homer or Sophocles, the production was part of the list of extracurricular activities that were shut down in early March 2020 as part of the coronavirus pandemic.
While no one was happy with the occurrence, the shutdown’s timing stung particularly for the drama program.
“We had to shut down opening night, and that was the worst,” said Grace Alberico, theater and vocal teacher at MCHS.
Though the “Clue” bunch kept hoping for some kind of deus ex machina to let them perform after the initial closure, it became clear there would be no such luck.
“At first there we were thinking they would just postpone it or maybe we’d just livestream it in the summer, but the restrictions never loosened, so we just had to take down the set,” Alberico said.
The COVID conditions weren’t much better later in the calendar year, she added, and a possibility of the staging the fall musical for 2020 never materialized, given audience proximity and the already cramped conditions of musicians in the orchestra pit.
“Plus, a musical is just such a larger amount of people, and we couldn’t make it work,” Alberico said.
Coming together while staying safe
With the dark clouds of the pandemic lessening — albeit not utterly disappearing — a spring play was approved, and Alberico strove to keep things simple with a show she performed herself in high school.
“I’m super happy we got to do this. It’s a small cast, it’s a really great group playing off each other,” she said. “It’s a full-on comedy, since we wanted people to be able to laugh. It’s also very flexible; it has a minimal set, which is what we needed, and the cast is flexible since it’s meant to be played by a small core of people doing multiple roles.”
Under the current state guidelines — Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors — 500 people are allowed in the audience for each performance.
“We’re just going to ask that families stay together and try to leave some seats in between for those who aren’t in their group,” Alberico said.
Though rehearsals have come with an effort to employ social distancing whenever possible, the cast and crew have been game to put together the best show they can.
Alyssa Rodriguez said she’s just pleased to be able to be involved in theater for her senior year after being unable to portray Miss Scarlet in “Clue.”
“It was really sad, but I’m glad we’re back at it again,” she said.
Besides playing Oedipus in the upcoming show, Rodriguez also found herself taking on the part of assistant director.
“It’s really fun to experience both parts of it since I’ve never done that before,” she said.
While Alberico doesn’t usually have students acting and fulfilling other functions simultaneously, she said Rodriguez’s willingness to do just that has been hugely helpful.
“It wasn’t meant to be that way. We had some obstacles with casting early on with people not being able to do it, so luckily she stepped in, and she’s been doing both duties,” she said. “I don’t know who else could have done that. She’ll be acting in her scene, run offstage to write down notes to give the cast later, and then come back on. She’s just fabulous.”
Likewise, MCHS junior Maddy Laman portrays Electra as well as working on the play’s wardrobe.
“I love sewing costumes and historical reenactment costumes in general. Being able to get that chance, especially with a theater group, I’m able to build on my skills, so it helps me a lot,” she said.
The characters’ clothing aims to be partly accurate to the period with tunics and capes and the like, with Laman designing the togas and sashes.
“It was definitely a challenge, but it was very rewarding once everyone got in their costumes and to see them get on stage. I was about to cry,” she said.
It’s all Greek to me
Aside from the main characters, the majority of “Saving the Greeks” surrounds characters who have existed in the drama and storytelling worlds for millennia, such as forceful leader Agamemnon, the blind prophet Tiresias, and a Greek chorus, to name a few.
Besides occasionally wearing a giant eyeball on his forehead to play a cyclops, freshman Austin Seewald is also super soldier Achilles, strongman Hercules, and the head honcho of Olympus.
“I love being Zeus, because he’s really cocky and that’s fun. I get to speak in a deep voice,” he said.
Though several boys work on the stage and technical crew, Seewald and Devon Malley are the only guys in the cast, excluding a small army of cardboard cutouts.
“I’m perfectly fine with that. There’s not that many guys here who do theater, but I still enjoy it,” he said.
Sewald served in a small role as a Munchkin in 2019’s “The Wizard of Oz” at MCHS, the same show in which senior Millie Fritz portrayed Glinda the Good Witch.
Fritz said she feels her part in the upcoming show is a little more substantial.
“This is my first time playing a really big part. This is such a great experience being onstage with all my friends, and I love doing theater,” she said.
Fritz is Lysistrata, who — in Aristophanes’ Greek comedy of the same name — works to end the Peloponnesian War by encouraging wives of soldiers to practice aggressive abstinence until the fighting stops completely.
“My character tends to be more serious, although she does have her goofy sides and goofy little lines,” Fritz said. “Most of the time she’s more straight to the point, she wants to get things done and wants to have a say in the matter, most of all.”
Much like her character’s determination to achieve social change, Fritz said the effort that’s gone into the show is worth the positive end result.
“It was challenging at first, but I felt like the rewards were much more beneficial than the amount of work I had to put in,” she said. “We all had to put in a ton of work for this show, but we all enjoy it so much.”
Even with last year’s setback, getting the drama program back in gear has been thrilling for the director.
“Just seeing how much joy this is bringing them once again has been the best part of it,” Alberico said. “We’ve had a lot of obstacles, but we really hope people come and support us.”
DIRECTOR: Grace Alberico
DIRECTOR’S ASSISTANT: Alyssa Rodriguez
STAGE MANAGER: Becky Cruz
STAGE CREW LEADER: Kimber Eike
DIALYSIS: Jessica Womble
PEON: Nevaeh Allen
ARISTOTLE/TIRESIAS: Maria Sanchez Silva
LYSISTRATA: Millie Fritz
OEDIPUS: Alyssa Rodriguez
ELECTRA/GREEK CHORUS: Maddy Laman
CLYTEMNESTRA/GREEK CHORUS: Kendra Eike
KING BETA/AGAMEMNON: Devon Malley
ZEUS/HERCULES/ACHILLES: Austin Seewald
JOCASTA/PHAEDRA/HELEN OF TROY: Emma Fritz
MESSENGER/PROMETHEUS/HERA: Cynae Montoya
SHEPHERD/SOLDIER/GREEK CHORUS: Samantha Bade
CASSANDRA/MEDEA/GREEK CHORUS: Arianna Crain
GREEK CHORUS: Natalie Womble
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