Skip to main content

Draper Journal

Draper high schools gear up for a different-looking theatre season

Oct 21, 2020 11:30AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Traditionally, hundreds of patrons pack the high school auditoriums in November, eager to support high school theatre students in their fall musicals.

Not this year.

Both Juan Diego Catholic High and Corner Canyon High have opted to move their musicals to the spring.

“If professional theatres haven’t figured out how to put on a large show, how will high schools?” asked Juan Diego’s theatre director Joe Crnich. “This will allow us more time to figure out social distancing in the auditorium, microphones, masks, and even virtual, if there is any change in the status of COVID-19.”

The soft closure of schools during COVID-19 pandemic last spring canceled many high school region and state contests, including the third attempt for Juan Diego to perform their one-act, “Triangle.”

“If it hasn’t happened now, I don’t know if it will,” Crnich said. “We did close ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night’ just before the soft closure.”

Corner Canyon was able to perform their one-act, “Check Please,” at last spring’s region, but were not able to compete in any individual events. Nor were they able to perform their spring show.

“It was really devastating and heartbreaking for our students to not perform ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” Corner Canyon theatre director Phaidra Atkinson said. “We already had our posters up advertising our show so we went around to update them with stickers that said, ‘Canceled due to COVID-19: We told you not to feed the plants.’ Then we went around to all the cast members’ houses and got photos of them and put those around a canceled poster in a frame. It’s a fun memory of a show we didn’t get to do.”

Both schools are beginning the year with Shakespeare.

Corner Canyon will participate in the 44th annual high school Shakespeare Festival, which will be held virtually.

They plan to submit a video of a scene from “Julius Caesar” and watch the awards ceremony online in early October.

Juan Diego is planning to perform a yet-to-be-announced play this fall.

“I’m learning toward ‘As You Like It,’” Crnich said. “I’m liking the idea of a comedy at this time. We also wanted to open with a play that involves less kids, maybe 15 to 18 only, and no singing so that we won’t be transmitting thousands of droplets.”

The Catholic high school also plans to participate in the virtual Shakespeare festival.

“Theatre is a lot harder to do now. You hold class and only see the students’ eyes. Rehearsals are with masks and it takes away the actors’ expressions. We’re needing to find and communicate that in other ways,” he said.

Both schools decided to put on “Matilda” as their school musicals. Corner Canyon plans to hold their performance at 7 p.m. Feb. 5-6, 8 and 10-12 on their stage, while Juan Diego is setting their musical performance in early March.

Tickets for CCHS performance will be $8-10.

“Our dreams are to go forward, but we will double cast in case of illnesses or changes with COVID-19 guidelines and we’ll have our kids wearing masks and socially distanced at rehearsals,” Atkinson said. “We’re extending our run so we can space apart our patrons and still offer enough nights so people can attend. And if there is a reason, we can switch to video it or stream it. We’re trying to be flexible and follow the guidelines, day-to-day, but make plans.”

Canyons School District only allows 25% of its auditoriums to be filled with patrons during the pandemic. Patrons also need to wear face coverings.

Crnich selected “Matilda” since it is a show he enjoyed on Broadway in 2014.

“It’s a fun show and if possible, we’d like to include our middle school and elementary school students in the ensemble. It’s a way to introduce them to theatre,” he said.

However, Crnich said he will proceed with caution.

“We don’t want any of our kids getting sick, but we’re wanting to keep them enthused and passionate about their love of theatre,” he said.

Corner Canyon plans to perform two spring shows, “Children of the Black Skirt” and “Bright Star.”

“We’ll go with the flow. ‘Children of the Black Skirt’ could be canceled last minute if we’re possibly shut down, but it’s about a woman who ran an abandoned Australian orphanage. I saw it and just loved it,” Atkinson said. “‘Bright Star’ is a musical that was inspired by a real event and is set in the American South of the 1920s and ‘40s.”

Both schools plan to compete at region and state, if they are held this school year.

Last spring, the Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards were held virtually, and Juan Diego Catholic High’s Anthony Tibolla won the best supporting actor award.