Plains Production Just What the Students Ordered
This year’s theater production at Plains Junior may have stood in stark contrast to the musical spectacle the school normally stages, but it was just what students needed.
“I turn to music, dancing and acting to relax and unwind,” said eighth-grader Mackenzie Nitz. “I needed that more than ever with the pandemic this year.”
Plains choral teacher and theater advisor Abbie Miller said it was her students’ initial suggestion and persistence that ultimately pushed her and co-advisor Aaron Nunley to find a way to make the show go on in spite of the year’s challenges. Given the restriction on singing indoors earlier in the school year, in place of a musical they settled on “Box,” a vignette play that consisted of a series of short stories all adding up to a common theme and message.
“When all was said and done, you would have thought it was any other year,” said Miller as she recalled the range of emotions that filled their performance weekend. Students were just as excited to perform for a smaller crowd of mostly family and just as tearful to see it all come to an end after the curtain closed for their fourth and final performance on March 14.
“I doubted from the very start if we’d end up being able to perform at all, but I’m so glad we had a chance to do it,” said seventh-grader Zander Brewer, sharing that the whole experience “helped [him] grow out of [his] shell.”
Brewer was one of nearly 40 students who had the opportunity to be a part of the crew or cast. The smaller cast, paired with the fact that each story staged only a small group of characters, made physical distancing during rehearsals and the actual production more feasible. Miller and Nunley also divided the group into two casts that each performed twice, giving more students an opportunity to participate without the group being too large.
Each story in the vignette portrayed a different scenario specific to middle-schoolers, giving cast members a relatable storyline. Each character’s “box” represented a different range of emotions and the reputation that one might inherit from their experiences.
“It was easy to relate to at least one of the characters in the story,” said eighth-grader Margaret Hochwalt.
“There were so many different people that you could actually identify with a lot of them,” Nitz agreed. “It was also cool to see that someone could look totally different on the outside of their box than how they were feeling on the inside.”
The experience inspired other deep realizations about the middle school experience. “Your box isn’t permanent and you don’t have to be defined by one thing,” reflected eighth-grader Alayna Waldner.
Perhaps even more impactful were the friendships that were formed in the process. Beyond the multiple references to the last two months as a “bonding experience,” the energy in the school cafeteria during the group’s cast party was evidence enough.
“It was especially important to carry on with something this year because they don’t have much else when it comes to social outlets outside of school,” Nunley said.