In the wake of COVID-19, Waynesville High School drama students are taking their upcoming production virtual.
Students will perform a dramatic reading of the play, “Begets: Fall of a High School Ronin” at 7 p.m. Dec. 10, 11, 12, 18 and 19.
Audiences can purchase tickets for $8 per individual or $12 per family or group at the website our.show/whs/begets. Purchasers will receive a unique link, giving them a front-row seat to the online audio play.
“It’s very different because we don’t get the luxury of being on stage and doing stage directions. It’s just voice acting,” explained WHS student Sarah Borgos, who plays the lead character, Emi Edwards.
The play is set in a unique world that combines a high-school drama with “an action-packed samurai story,” according to the playbill. Borgos’ character is described as, “a high-school geek girl who’s fighting to overthrow the cruel shoguns of her school.”
According to Borgos, the character is “kind of dorky, but strong” and must weigh her temptations to be popular and powerful against her desire to do good.
“Emi Edwards is someone who doesn’t fit in; an outsider,” Borgos said. “She has fighting abilities, but doesn’t always utilize them for the right reasons.”
The cast is made up of several experienced young actors, many of whom have appeared in previous WHS productions, as well as community-theater shows in Waynesville, Rolla and elsewhere. In addition to Borgos, cast members include Talia Johnson, Isabella Yeo, Jasmine Torres, Briyonna Tyson, Sebastian Malvaes, Conner Sutterly, A.J. Harness, Gail Dueser, Adam Freed, Kailani Turner, Lexi Shulz, Aaren Charbonier and Layla Torres.
Students have been in rehearsals since the end of September. The play’s director and drama teacher, Charles Davis, said his students have worked to overcome many challenges this year, learning to adapt their presentations to social distancing and mask-wearing.
“One of the major challenges has been that, while the students were in the building and could participate in extracurricular activities, there was a question of how (the play) would look,” he explained. “For me, safety is always a priority. We couldn’t hold normal rehearsals that everyone was used to. So, if you looked in on a rehearsal, you would see actors spaced out across the stage floor. While practicing the dialogue of the show, sometimes we would come across a section that required a sprinkling of romance or an argument boiling over, and instead of physically being able to hug or be nose to nose, we had to balance the need to work on the emotion behind the lines and the need to make sure a safe distance was kept. It provided an opportunity for our student actors to challenge themselves to use more of their imagination — like classic radio theater performances — versus physically acting everything out.”
Davis also pointed out that the production couldn’t happen without its student crew, which includes student director Makaila Marks, stage manager Zachary Web and assistant stage manager Fancy Richmond, as well as Alivia Rolls, Isabella Yeo, Celine Stanely, Alicia Chavis, Yemile Aguirre, Kaitlin Zen, Casette Sutterly, Joana Jones, Sophia Genuik and Kailani Turner.
“Theater is more than just actors on the stage,” Davis said. “There are dozens of individuals behind the scenes that make sure the show is ready to be presented.”
While it’s possible that a successful run of this year’s audio play could lead to other virtual performances, Davis said he’s not sure whether the format will be used once circumstances allow audiences to return to theaters and enjoy live performances.
“If this presentation is successful, then it will become another tool for the department to use,” he said. “As far as using it in the future, I’m hesitant to say yes beyond this season. Personally, I see this medium of presentation as a way for the theater to continue to adapt and change. It is a survival method that actors and technicians need to embrace. But it will never replace the thrill of a live performance or the needed interaction between actors and the audience.”
(Editor’s note: Some information in this story was provided by the Waynesville R-VI School District Office of Communications and Marketing.)