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Nostalgia from the stage

High school theater season is getting ready to kick off in Pittsburgh. Shows usually begin to appear late this month and wrap up by late May. Being a four-year participant in my high school’s shows, I always began feeling more excited as February rolled around, because that meant we were almost ready to perform.

Right out of the gates my freshman year of high school, I wanted to be involved. I decided originally to stick to the orchestra pit, because I had five years of instrument study to my two years in Theater Arts class, but I knew I wanted to be a part of this very large production. We were performing “Beauty and the Beast,” and the whole school was excited. This was one of the largest casts in our program’s history.

The show itself received rave reviews in local newspaper columns, which propelled the program forward in many senses. Since then, not only has the group as a whole grown in size, but more males have shown interest in the theater.

My second year in high school featured a performance of “Once Upon A Mattress,” a musical spinoff of “The Princess and the Pea.” This show was a lot of fun, now that I had an idea of how the entire process worked. On top of that, we moved theaters to the Greater Masonic Temple of Pittsburgh, after our first venue encountered multiple technical difficulties. This theater was much nicer, having a proscenium arch stage with about 200 seats and a newly renovated lighting/sound board, complete with wireless microphone packs for the actors and stand lights for the orchestra.

The show was a success, and by this point word was getting around about our theater program. We continued to expand our student-base, and had an even larger cast for my junior year performance, “Wizard of Oz.” The only issue we ran into with this show were our pyrotechnics. On the night of the first show, we set off a tiny fireball for the witch’s exit, but it was just enough to set off the fire alarm. After about a 30-minute delay, we were back on track and performing our show.

Here’s the catch — part of the emergency fire prevention system in this theater were the roof panels opening up directly above the sage to allow any smoke to leave the theater, and open they stayed. By the time we got to the scene in the poppy field, it had begun snowing, which set up the greatest improvised line I’ve ever heard in student-produced theater:

“Guys! It’s snowing! It’s actually, really snowing!”

There’s a bit of a back-story to this. There is a line from the scarecrow during this scene when it begins to “snow” in the poppy field, allowing for the other characters, who have fallen asleep from the poppies, to wake up. They do, and the show goes on. But the fact that the snow laying on the stage was the real deal was incredible to me at the time.

Once again, we rocked the performance, and my final show was “Seussical the Musical.” By this time, I was starting to see just how much fun everyone on stage was having, and so I decided to audition myself. I landed the role of Yertle the Turtle, a judge in the jungle who sentences Horton the Elephant to an insane asylum. I loved every minute of preparing for this show, and it’s safe to say that I was hooked on acting after that. I love every minute of being a theater-communication major at Gannon University.

So, I guess the moral of this story is this, if you’re thinking of trying something, go for it. You never know — you may end up loving it, like I did. The worst case scenario of trying it out is that you find out you don’t like, and never have to try it again. You’ll never know until you try it out.

Also, if you’re in the Pittsburgh area on the weekend of February 20 or 27, go see “Into the Woods” performed by Vincentian Academy at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Temple. Go Royals!

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