COVID Theater: Game Set Match

Photo+Credit%3A+Houstonia%0A

Photo Credit: Houstonia

Shira Nathan, Junior Editor and Photography Editor

Photo Credit: Houstonia

By Shira Nathan

Three weeks ago, despite the complications, Centaurus Theater Company put on it’s last two shows for the 2020-2021 season: She Kills Monsters (Senior Show) and Miss Lonely Hearts (Underclassmen). Hopefully you had the chance to see them, but if you didn’t, here were some of the highlights (in my opinion):

  • Evil cheerleaders and gelatinous cubes
  • Newspaper staff in search of god
  • Wacky, high-quality set pieces and period-themed soundtracks
  • Perfectly in character costumes
  • Virtual Accessibility
  • All around great performances
  • A big-bang ending for the outgoing Seniors

 

Now I’m biased, because I have participated in the CTC and many of my friends are involved, but I thought both shows were fantastic. Miss Lonely Hearts (Underclassmen) takes place in the 1950s. The main character is hired to write an advice column for the love sick and lost, and along the way discovers he cares more about the people writing to him than he realized. She Kills Monsters (Seniors) takes place in 1985. Agnes the Average goes on a Dungeons and Dragons quest in an attempt to connect with her younger sister, who died the previous year, and to shirk her average status. 

 

Something that stood out to me about both shows was the level of thought the company put in. Everyone had worked very hard to make these shows the best they could be, given the circumstances: to make the shows safe, have good results, and  to have fun. I would say they achieved all of the above. 

 

I talked to members of the company about their experiences. Here’s what they said.

 

The general consensus was that the CTC is a great place, both for theater and for community. Everyone I talked with praised the welcoming environment and community atmosphere the CTC provides. Arianna McCarty, a junior running for president of the theater board, told me about what Centaurus theater has meant to her, and why she’s running. “At the root of it, CTC has become like my home, it’s my family, and I just want to do everything that I can to make sure that it continues being that unified and really just amazing community that it’s been for me over the past few years”. McCarty is an actor as well as helping out with set; she played the part of Mary in Miss Lonely Hearts. Others echoed her sentiments. Evy Ray, a freshman in the costuming department, said “There’s not a second that goes by where I’m not enjoying it”.

 

Theater has been a lifeline for these students during the pandemic, but it hasn’t been easy. 

COVID theater is difficult; I’ve experienced it. Projecting in a mask is hard, social distancing creates problems, and there’s no live audience. You don’t get the reward of being together and seeing the effect of your performances. And there’s the not-so-small matter of safety. While theater could still continue, the presence of the virus was definitely felt. “What I miss most is the community, because we’ve been in two separate shows. I haven’t been able to talk to any of my friends who are seniors, and as much as a small cast can be super fun, there’s something about having a large cast and a bunch of people to hang out with that I do miss a lot” said Caleb Lowengart, who played William Shrike in Miss Lonely Hearts. Program director Jay Kinsel remarked on the specific struggles that came with being a community-oriented program during the pandemic. “Our program is built around the idea of family, and this year we have had to compartmentalize each department [for safety], which has… gone against our main theory of operation”. And of course, it’s not just about preparing for the shows: a huge part of theater is the rush of performing live. As one student put it, “The audience is what makes live theater live theater. It gives it a specific energy”.

 

The CTC was not immune to these difficulties, but all things considered, I would say that they rose to the challenge. “These shows were so great because they really helped us get back into the groove of theater. Even though this is my first year with the CTC, I can tell that things usually run a lot differently and it was really outside the box of what we usually do, which just shows that in the future we’ll be able to do so much more and it’ll be super fun,” said Ray. Through small cast sizes, separated departments, masks, and virtual audiences, CTC was able to put on five shows. “It’s been a great challenge and I’m really grateful that we’re still able to do theater through COVID because, frankly, I’d be lost without it”, remarked McCarty. Mr. Kinsel says he looks forward to when the CTC can get back to doing what they do the way they want, not the way they have to.

 

The CTC urges you to go out and see the shows; online or in person. They work hard and produce amazing results, and the program depends on the sales from tickets and the support of the community to keep going. Every single person I asked said that’s what’s most needed: audiences.

 

Clearly COVID has been a worthy opponent, but it couldn’t account for the resilience of Centaurus High School. As Director Kinsel said, “It’s been really exciting for us to problem solve something really big, and, at the end of the day, I’ll never say we beat COVID, but I think we tied it.”

 

Interviewees: Caleb Lowengart (sophomore, actor), Evy Ray (freshman, costuming), Arianna McCarty (junior, actor and set), Jay Kinsel (CTC director)