Wilton High adjusts to COVID to stage fall play

WILTON — The COVID pandemic kept Wilton High School students off stage for their spring musical, but the show appears to be going on for the fall play.

Leon (and Mrs.) Trotsky, Philip Glass and three philosophical monkeys may not be typical comedic characters, but they are all there in “All in the Timing,” a play by David Ives that will be live-streamed from the Clune Center stage on Nov. 17 and Nov. 20.

The play is a collection of six one-act comedies that are witty and romantic, but also “very sophisticated,” according to theater director Kathryn Luckstone.

“It is a very sophisticated piece of material. There is a lot of dramaturgy. It’s harder to do in high school and is more commonly done in college settings,” she said, adding there is a good deal of “absurdism” covering up subtext.

Among the settings are characters portraying the three monkeys attempting to write “Hamlet,” the composer Philip Glass having an emotional crisis trying to buy a loaf of bread, a young couple on a first date who get multiple chances to start over each time they say the wrong thing, and the famous Marxist waxing poetic as he dies over and over and over.

The play is directed by by high school public speaking and English teacher Kevin Slater. Assistant directors are seniors Brielle Flavin and Abby Seaman.

When school dismissed in March for the rest of the academic year, Luckstone did not know what the future would bring. Spring is when the fall play is chosen and auditions are held, so everyone can jump right into rehearsals when school starts again.

After that all fell apart, looking to the fall, she said, “as my role of providing a theater program, I just wanted to make sure going into this year I had a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, D, F and G.”

She and Slater kept in touch over the summer and in August they worked on different scenarios depending on whether all the students would be in school, if a hybrid model would be in place or if everything would be remote.

Eventually, they learned they could work on a production in person but students and staff had to be masked and socially distanced just as during the school day. That played into their selection of “All in the Timing” with its six mini-plays. Although there will be separate productions — one for Cohort A and one for Cohort B — they did not have to cast two full plays. However, they have had to rehearse completely separately and only the two days a week the students were in school.

“It’s like doing two plays,” she said.

The advantage to “All in the Timing” is that there are never more than four characters on stage at once.

“Kevin very smartly incorporated the sort of metaphor of COVID and social distancing with three tables as in one scene to make an 18-foot table. They are now sitting 18 feet apart. He took the absurdism written into the play and expanded it into pandemic purposes.”

Luckstone said she is very impressed with how well the students have taken on the material that includes references to cultural touchstones some were not familiar with such as “Gone With the Wind,” “The Honeymooners,” and the composer Glass.

All told, there are 27 students participating, 22 actors and five crew members.

Cohort A includes Emily Baer, Lucy Beach, Jemma Bear, Sarah Bennett, Nala Clarke, Abigail Delattre, Ella DeLuca, Molly DeLuca, Allison Eidt, Brielle Flavin, Jordan Foster, Timothy Grace, Matthew Huang, Stephanie Jones, Aki Lasher, Miya Lasher, Sayuki Layne.

Their performance will live-stream Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.

Cohort B includes Charlotte Markey, Samantha McDonald, Lauren Parrotta, Illeas Paschalidis, Casey Shu, Abigail Seaman, Matt Senneff, Lyra Sharma, Anton Rushevich, and Mickey Wilcox.

Their performance will live-stream Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.

Luckstone said losing out on presenting the spring musical was a huge disappointment.

“Not just because we all love working on the spring musical, but the state of not having any culmination, no closing. That feeling is what made all of us most sad about the situation. … we couldn’t be together in the collaborative atmosphere we all thrive in,” she said.

“Even when I talk to students now, the juniors say they don’t feel like seniors because they never ended their junior year,” Luckstone said.

With the focus on the here and now, she said, the students “really enjoy this play. They’re really enjoying being challenged. In so many ways it seems silly until you read it and then you find there’s a real story and real mature emotion. Scenes that seem bizarre or different are reflecting something much deeper. I’m impressed they are absorbing it as well as they are.”

Tickets are on sale online. For information or questions, call 203-762-0381. ext. 6205.

With this show almost under their belt, Luckstone said theater offerings will go forward. Both the improvisational show “Free Play” and the senior show will take place virtually over the winter.

Luckstone said she is exploring every possibility for the spring musical and plans to sally forth “no matter what.”