At Rim High theatre department, it’s all about the students

Nov 11, 2021 | Front Page

First post-pandemic production set to open Nov. 12

By Julianne Homokay
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer

In March of 2020, the Rim High theatre department was flourishing. Between the husband-and-wife team who run it, Teddy and Nic Nicholas, the department offered two classes during the regular school day, Beginning Drama and Advanced Drama.

The department produced one play in the fall, one musical in the spring, two one-act competitions with other schools and a haunted Halloween fundraiser (reported on in The Alpine Mountaineer dated Nov. 4). Students also attended the International Thespian Festival, an annual three-day immersive event that brings thousands of Southern California high school theatre students together.

During that particular March, Nic and Teddy were in rehearsal for Frozen Jr., a 60-minute adaptation of the blockbuster Disney film turned Broadway show, created with young performers in mind. This production was going to involve 99 kids from across the Rim of the World Unified School District.

Then, of course, COVID-19 happened. Public school instruction went online and extracurriculars ceased. Frozen Jr., needless to say, was canceled, which caused a lot of heartbreak for the theatre kids, especially the graduating seniors who missed their last chance to perform at Rim High. Theatre activities went on an indefinite hiatus.
But now they are back, and certainly not shying away from a challenge, with the iconic classic play by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s plays – written in Elizabethan English, often in iambic pentameter, and intermittently in rhyming couplets – can be challenging even for professional actors. So why did they choose Romeo and Juliet following a performance hiatus of almost two years?

“All of our money was tied up in Frozen Jr.,” said Teddy. With Shakespeare, “we could pare down the props and costumes,” added Nic.

Indeed, Teddy’s directorial approach is highly contemporary, edgy and lean, which allows the focus to remain on the acting and the language. He also uses music during scene changes by current artists – Ed Sheeran, for example – to set the mood for the following scene. Both Nic and Teddy are quick to emphasize, though, that this is an entirely student-run production, including prop, costume and set design, technical aspects, stage management, and even the fight and dance choreography. Daniel Harris, who is playing the role of the hotheaded Tybalt, will have his creations featured in the combat scenes and the famous dance where Romeo and Juliet first meet and fall in love. While this comprehensive approach maximizes student involvement, for Teddy it’s also practical: “They can walk away and get a job if they need to.”

And a few have, graduating to technical jobs right out of Rim High, or going on to major in theatre in college. But mostly Nic and Teddy have noticed that their program helps to create a lifelong passion for the art in their students as an avocation. Theatre training also offers skill-building that is transferable to many other fields: collaboration, creative thinking, team-building, problem-solving.

Ultimately, both Nic and Teddy find joy in how their program unites a wide variety of students working together outside of the classroom who may not necessarily cross paths during the regular school day. “They grow and learn to be around other humans,” says Nic, but she also admires the students’ creativity, intelligence and willingness to be themselves when they’re involved in a production.

“We just love our jobs,” she said. Which is evident in the professionalism and enthusiasm that the students display. Nic and Teddy are hoping the community will come out for the show, support the students and witness this for themselves.

Performances of Romeo and Juliet are Friday, Nov. 12, at 4 and 7 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 13, at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Tickets may also be purchased at the door. (Note: masks are required to enter the Rim High Performing Arts Center; performers will be masked as well.)



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