After a series of coronavirus delays, Montezuma-Cortez High School’s drama students will perform live with a new musical they wrote themselves.
Friday will mark the premiere of “The Isle of Skye,” an epic seafaring adventure in which a crew of misfit sailors sets out to find a mythical island that legend says can grant one’s deepest desires.
The travelers encounter pirates, fairies, monsters and more on their journey. The music is adapted from numerous seas shanties and folk songs.
The department will follow similar COVID guidelines to those used by the Colorado High School Activities Association for sporting events indoors.
The audience will start 25 feet back from the stage, and social distancing will be required between family groups. Actors and audience will be required to wear masks.
“Beyond that, it should be a normal performance,” said M-CHS Theatre Director Nicholaus Sandner.
The department’s last live performance was a dress rehearsal for its rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” in March 2020. Some got to see the rehearsal, but the pandemic prevented a full run of the show.
Students again were ready to perform Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” at Montezuma Park in November, but it was suspended because of a local surge in virus cases.
According to M-CHS Theatre Director Nicholaus Sandner, the group first planned to perform “The Isle of Skye” at Montezuma Park. Performing outdoors meant that students would not have had to wear masks. But poor weather conditions made it nearly impossible for night shows.
The county’s move into Level Blue on the state’s COVID-19 dial earlier this month enabled the department to perform indoors at its own auditorium. Students were more than happy to take advantage of the auditorium’s lighting capabilities and larger stage.
“It gave us more range to explore what we can do with our ideas,” said senior Mia Jeremiah.
The idea for the musical came from an improvisational role-playing exercise the students took part in where they created their own characters.
“We pick these characters and then just sort of go and see where it ends up,” said senior Jadon Cruzan.
Different attributes from all the students’ improv characters were then fused into the musical’s main characters.
Students looked to the folktales of the British Isles for inspiration.
Senior Joseph Tevault was already curious about the subject matter.
“I was always interested in monsters, mythology and folktales like that,” Tevault said. “So that was kind of my piece of writing the script.”
Influences also came from a range of other sources, including Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and “The Old Man and the Old Moon.”
Plenty of legwork went into creating the play’s final 140-page script.
“I certainly want to voice how impressed I am with the students for stepping up and doing something as massive as this,” Sandner said. “I mean, writing a play is not something every person has done. To write a play as a group and try and keep that singular voice moving through, they’ve done a phenomenal job.”
For the music, Sandner created a playlist with numerous sea shanties. Cruzan picked the ones that would work best in the play, then worked with Choir Teacher Marla Sitton on the harmonies.
Some of the songs were already difficult to sing and hold one’s breath. Having to wear masks made them nearly impossible to perform.
Cruzan had to find workarounds in the music to make it possible for performers to catch their breath.
“It’s been a process figuring out what we need to do to get the best sound that we can,” Cruzan said.
Eleventh grader Koral Jackson said she was willing to make any adjustments required.
“If it’s what we have to do to perform again, it’s a small price to pay,” Jackson.
The show also utilizes shadow puppetry to help viewers visualize scenes that are too grand to scale down to stage.
After all the difficulties of the past year, students are itching to get back out on stage.
“It’s weird,” Cruzan said. “You don’t really know how much you thrive off of performance until you go a year without it.”
“It’s kind of intimidating, but it’s also exciting,” said freshman Emmie Beckler. “This is going to be my first play here. and I feel like this is going to be an awesome start.”
“The Isle of Skye” will have 7 p.m. show times on March 19, 20, 26 and 27.
Matinee shows on March 20 and 27 will start at 1 p.m.
All performances are at the M-CHS auditorium.