The show must go on…8 months later

Even a pandemic can’t stop Theater from embracing zombie apocalypse

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Hannah Rowton ’22 rehearses for the fall play

Ryleigh Selby, Staff Member

Leaves of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds crunched on the sidewalk outside of the school courtyard. The air hadn’t yet turned crisp, and the sun peeked its still-warm rays above the building. Football players lined the field, stretching and preparing for another day of practice. The marching band strutted across the parking lot, catching up from weeks of missed rehearsals. Xylophones sounded from outside B-hall, ringing with the lingering notes of scales. And in the courtyard, Hannah Rowton ’22 and a group of mask-clad students stood in a large circle. 

With zombies striding around in the middle.

Theater has been Rowton’s only release from the hold of Coronavirus these past few months. 

“School just isn’t fun anymore,” she said. “Theater was what made school fun, and I feel like parts of that have been taken away.” 

 The thespians laughed and cheered as their classmates played an improv game warming up for the rehearsal ahead. Rowton reveled in every minute of it.

“I love theater. Theater is the best,” she said. “So when I found out that we could do the show, no matter what it was, I was just so excited we could do it.”

Rowton is a narrator in the fall play 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, which debuts tonight and runs through Friday, Oct. 30, at 6:00 p.m. in the school parking lot. Being a part of the play has made all the difference for her.

“Having theater now has really lifted my spirits, and anytime we have rehearsal, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I have rehearsal after school! I get to get dressed, I get to leave my house!’ Because I’m in my pajamas all day. Just… my spirits are down. And when I’m in theater, my spirits can raise. I feel invested in this show because it’s my only chance to be creative. All day, all week. It’s my only time to do things and to be who I am. And that’s awesome.” 

As the title suggests, this year’s play was about ten ways to survive the zombie apocalypse. Rowton’s role is to lead the audience through the apocalypse.

“The narrators explain each method, which is a way to survive the zombie apocalypse,” she said. “Then the main characters, Jamie, Christy, Sam and Susan, reenact all the methods and how well they work.” 

The show, which was originally planned for last spring, looks nothing like the plays of the past. Gwendolyn Lukas-Doctor, the theater director better known as Doc, has had to work some magic to make it all possible. 

“It’s going to be in the parking lot, and it’s going to be a drive-in movie style theater type of performance where people pull up in their cars and can bring snacks in their cars, but they just can’t get out of their cars,” Doc said.

“Doc has talked about it with tech quite extensively,” Rowton said. “The mics are going to be hooked up to the radio, hopefully, and you’re going to be able to tune in to the radio and listen to what’s happening while watching it. So you’ll be able to hear it as well as see it. And we’re going to have a raised stage.”

Not only did the location and layout of the performance have to change, but also what rehearsals looked like entirely. 

“We originally started in the theater, and that was so nostalgic in a way, going back in there after years-” -Rowton paused, quickly realizing her slip- “…after months of not being able to go into the auditorium. But we can’t practice in the auditorium anymore, and I was really bummed about that because I feel like being in the auditorium is a small part of just being in theater.”

“Right now, we’re rehearsing in the courtyard, which has been interesting because it’s not the same amount of space and we don’t have wings and stuff like that,” Rowton said. “It’s been an adjustment, but we’re making the most of it.” 

Doc shared her struggles with conducting the group outside. 

“As you can hear right now,” she said over the blaring siren from the football field and instruments from the marching band blaring across the parking lot, “it’s very distracting. It’s a hard time yelling at kids to be quiet backstage, and I know it’s hard. They want to socialize. We haven’t had much socialization, but we have to be focused.” 

Not only were rehearsals in a completely different format, but so were auditions in September. With the show originally planned for last year, Doc had big shoes to fill from her departed seniors. 

“We were supposed to do this show last spring, so most of it was cast, and I just had to replace the seniors that left,” Doc said. “It was great to be able to invite some of the new students and the freshman to come in, so they just did an online audition and it was awesome, actually. We did it on Flipgrid, and it worked.”

Rowton, who has done auditions at Monarch since her freshman year, recognized the pros and cons of auditioning online. 

“When you audition, you get all these nerves and stuff because you have one chance to do it and you have one chance to do the best audition so that you can get the role that you want,” she said. “But with auditions being online, you can retake your audition as many times as you want to and get it perfect and you don’t have that adrenaline rush that you normally get.”

Given the current situation, flexibility on Doc, her student’s, and the school’s parts has been crucial. 

“With the school, it’s been hard because it’s not the school’s fault so much as it’s that everything is constantly in flux and constantly changing,” said Doc. “So we’ve had to adjust to that. At first, they said we could rehearse inside and then we couldn’t, and then they’re saying we can only have 25 people but now I’m seeing that other groups are having more. It’s always constantly changing, so we just have to be flexible like that and just roll with it.”

Ireland Pothier, the stage manager for the show, has been the epitome of adaptability the last couple of months. “When we aren’t inside the auditorium, myself and my other stage manager organize blocking on scripts while our lights and sound managers work on cueing up what needs to happen so it’ll run smoothly once we get back in the auditorium,” he said. 

Pothier has had to make many adjustments to ensure that the show will be in great shape. His rehearsals instead of being dedicated to memorizing lines and practicing facial expressions are filled with setting up lights, speakers, building sets, and more. Luckily, Pothier’s tech crew has risen to the occasion. 

“Tech has definitely stepped up during this shorter show,” he said. “I’ve seen our tech moving much quicker and more efficiently to make sure everything is getting done in time for our show.” 

“I’ve definitely missed working with these techies, and I’m really proud of how well we’re handling the situation,” he said.

From the leads to the stage manager to the supporting actors and Doc herself, the whole department put everything they had into making this show come to life. 

“I’m going to make this show the best damn show I can make it. I probably can’t say that in the school newspaper,” Rowton added with a chuckle, “but it’s true: I’m going to make this show the best show I can make it because it might be the only one I get to do. I’m going to make the most of it.”