By Tawnya Panizzi
They’ve rehearsed by Zoom and won’t be performing on a traditional stage, but Fox Chapel Area theater students are eager to bring the high school’s fall production to life.
“It’s very uplifting to see how, despite everything that has happened (with covid-19), we can still have some normalcy during a very chaotic time,” senior Nathaniel Hines said.
The 17-year-old is among a cast of seven that will bring Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” to the stage during two mid-day shows on Oct. 24 and 25 at Aspinwall Riverfront Park, just off Freeport Road.
Performances begin at noon. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for the park and for Foxes Burrow, a high school pantry free to students who might need toiletries, school supplies or clothes.
“At this point, there’s a lot of people who need a quick break from all that’s happening in this world,” Hines said.
Performing in the fall play has alleviated fears for Hines that his senior year would be a watered-down version of “what it should be,” he said.
“I am very excited about this show, and I think we will make it just as amazing as in previous years,” Hines said.
That’s not to say it won’t look different than past big-budget shows with elaborate scenes and costuming.
A fast-paced schedule left only about a month from auditions to production. Rehearsals have not been face-to-face but on Zoom.
The show is not permitted to be held in the high school auditorium; an outdoor venue is necessary to adhere to safety guidelines.
“The challenges are real,” director Kristiann Josephs said, with a laugh.
“When we do rehearse in person, we’ll have masks on, so I won’t see their expressions and it will be hard to understand them.”
“With remote rehearsals, I can really only talk about the text and have them write down their blocking and hope it all looks good when we get together. I have to literally put most of my trust in them.”
Josephs has been the driving force behind the school’s most recent shows, including “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “Radium Girls.”
The veteran stage director chose this show because of the limited cast but also the poignant story.
Winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for drama, “Lost in Yonkers” follows two brothers as they navigate family secrets and interactions – all mixed with lighthearted shenanigans.
“Through the struggle of being in a war, the family pulls through with love, determination and what else but some laughs along the way,” senior Xavier Perry said.
Perry landed the role of Jay, a 15-year-old boy forced to live with his grandmother while his dad works off a debt out-of-state.
“I am super excited to be able to perform in a production this year amongst the global crisis,” Perry said. “Though difficulties are inherent due to social distance protocols and our time limit, we as a cast and production team are pulling through with smiles. I can’t wait to show off what we are preparing and for everyone to sit back and enjoy.”
Student producer Jocelyn Morningstar said she is happy to bid adieu to high school with the tradition of a fall production.
“It’s going to look a lot different than it has from the past couple of years, but everyone has been working really hard to make it happen,” Morningstar said. “I am excited for people to be able to come and enjoy the show in a safe, outdoor setting and see all the hard work that everyone has put in.”