Wilton High theater department 'Working' out a final performance

WILTON — Student thespians can breathe a sigh of relief this week as they finish up preperations for their long-anticipated performance of the musical, “Working.”

Months of perseverance and fundraising to the tune of over $25,000 will culminate in several outdoor performances on the North Field of Wilton High School this week at 8 p.m. on May 19, 20, 22 and 23, weather permitting. A rain date of May 24 will be used if one or more performances are affected by weather.

While ample amounts of time and effort have been poured into this project, the end result was never a guarantee, according to the Wilton High School Theatre Department’s Artistic Director and Producer Kathryn Luckstone.

“Since the very beginning of the year, we have had to take this one day at a time,” Luckstone said, acknowledging that guidelines and safety recommendations would morph and evolve regularly since the start of the academic year. “We started the year off with a socially distanced fall play. We live streamed it to families at home. We had to then make our winter productions virtual. We did that to decrease the likelihood for (the production) to have been canceled.”

Luckstone said the adjustments made for these virtual shows were difficult at first, but she was impressed at how well the students were able to adapt.

“The students were pleasantly surprised that anything was going to happen at all. They have had to have a level of understanding going through this entire process,” she said. “They take nothing for granted.”

Despite the unprecedented changes to the method of preparation, she said the participation did not drop. However, for those that are graduating from the program this year, there has been a clear missing element.

“Having the opportunity to perform with the program both before and during COVID-19 provided a chance to understand both situations,” said senior Brielle Flavin. “One of the biggest changes that stood out to me was that there was much less opportunity to get to know fellow castmates that you had not performed alongside before.”

Flavin also said that while there was still a sense of family during preparation, there was a larger sense of isolation as rehearsals were limited. “It always felt like something was missing when we were rehearsing in cohorts,” she admitted.

She said she is using this week to tighten newfound bonds made with castmates that she wishes she had more time to get to know.

All the while, Luckstone said the department knew there would be costs associated with bringing the entire performance outdoors.

She said the cost for a musical isn’t ever “cheap,” but they may have taken it for granted due to always being able to “use everything in our theater.”

“When we go outdoors now, we need power, we need a generator, to rent a stage, we need lights, tents, cables,” Luckstone said. “Everything we had indoors, we needed outdoors now and if this were to happen, we couldn’t do it without all of this.”

Utilizing the theater’s boosting club, participating in various fundraising events including Fairfield County’s Giving Day and an anonymous $10,000 donation, Luckstone said the department was fortunate to have the backing it did to put on one last performance of the year and for the senior cast members.

“Anyone who works in theater knows you have to be flexible. That’s what comes with live performances,” said Luckstone, a Wilton High School alumna. “People get sick, they get injured. In general, professionally, you are used to being flexible in how you problem solve. But no one could have ever prepared for this.”

Now, she says it is time for the young actors to release their nervous energy and grace the stage with one last string of performances to wrap up an unforgettable chapter of their lives.

“This past year caused a lot of separation, which is something that had never really been associated with the (theater department), as we always think of ourselves as a big family,” said Flavin. “I have also just learned to appreciate the work put into this program because, regardless of the situation, the leadership in this program will always work their hardest. It’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about creating something beautiful out of what you have.”