Lakota East, West Theater: The Show Must Go On

Lakota East, West Theater: The Show Must Go On
Posted on 10/30/2020
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collage of high school theater productionsLast spring, just two weeks before Lakota West was set to perform Fiddler on the Roof, COVID-19 happened and the show was cancelled.

“It was all so very disappointing, but looking back, it was actually partially a gift,” said Ethan Kuchta, who was to play Tevye. “A lot of us were taking being in the show for granted, getting the opportunity to perform for granted. Now we are very invested and realize the huge loss.”

The pandemic continues to have a profound effect on the arts community, but creative thinking is allowing Lakota high school students to perform their shows this fall.

“The biggest surprise this year is that we are allowed to do theater,” said Lakota East’s theater student leadership team. “And the cast is more than thrilled to perform -- even with the social distancing, mask-wearing, and all the safety precautions.”

Keeping safety at the forefront, East held video auditions for the show, and the student and adult leadership team decided to have two smaller casts instead of one big one. Rehearsals were reimagined, with half of them taking place over Zoom.

Zoom rehearsals have proven effective for seeing actors’ expressions because students are able to act out lines without a mask, from the safety of their own homes. In-person rehearsals include just 5-15 people each. East theater takes temperatures before each live rehearsal, rehearses in masks, and keeps as much distance as possible on stage, and maintains at least 6 feet of distance when not on stage.

When it comes time for the actual performances, both Lakota East and West are strictly following safety guidelines from the state. For the dress rehearsal and final performances, actors may perform without masks, as long as the audience (limited to 100) is 12’ back from the stage. When actors leave the stage, they mask-up and have designated waiting areas off stage where they can maintain social distancing protocols.

Even the authors of the productions reworked their pieces this summer, taking into account the parameters of the pandemic. The authors opened up legal copyright use to include both livestreaming and scheduled content, so East and West could perform their shows, no matter the situation.

The theater groups at both schools are reinventing just about everything they do in light of COVID.

“One very challenging parts of theater this year due to COVID-19 is the difficulty of working together and doing activities that involve contact,” said East sophomore Madeline Gardiner. “We didn’t just stop there and give up, because it wouldn’t be theater if we couldn’t come together and do activities as a group. So we came up with games and activities that are safe for everyone and that are still socially distant and non-contact with masks. And by following the rules and procedures that are put in place, we are able to put on our shows and make theater possible during this time.”  

Lakota theater students are quick to say why it’s so important that ‘the show must go on.”

“Theater is so important to me, especially now,” said East senior Paige Whalen. “It lets me pour out my ideas into a creative outlet and it lets me feel stable during this unstable time.”

In fact, it’s so important to West senior Lydia Perry that theater is the only in-person class she takes; all of her other classes are online. Lydia’s been in theater for four years but had never really thought about how much people need theater. But that’s changed. “In this dark time, theater brings joy.” She says that joy is not just among the actors and crew, but for the audience as well.

West Theater Director Kim Eldridge said that theater this fall is providing a moment of normalcy for her students. “Being part of theater is all about being open and now COVID is closing things off, making it difficult for students.”

Desstiny Jackson, who played the Wizard in West’s recent production, said her class has held discussions about what theater means and why it is important. “There is such a unique vibe in theater; it’s a family environment. Everyone in theater has similar personalities-- and we are open and non-judgmental, so we feel like we can just be ourselves. Sometimes it is the only outlet you have like this, especially in high school.”

East’s Bethany Untener sums it up well, “The community and everything about it is just amazing. It’s who I am.” 

The theater programs at both schools appreciate the community’s support during these uncertain times.

Tickets are on sale now for Lakota West’s production of Squad Goals and OZ, which will be on “Broadway on Demand” from Nov. 1-3. Click here for details on how to watch Lakota’s talented theater students from the comfort of your own home.

In December, Lakota West will also be recreating the Fiddler on the Roof production that was cancelled in the spring. Most of cast from last year were juniors, so they will finally be getting the chance to perform the musical.

The East Thunderhawk Theater program will be presenting live performances of The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon on Nov. 5-7 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 2:30 p.m.

East is offering two viewing options for this show. Individual tickets to the live performances can be purchased online for $10 + $0.50 per ticket fee or you may purchase an access code to the virtual performances for $15 + $0.50 per code. Tickets and access codes may be purchased at: