Dracula and Frankenstein radio shows wrap up a strange year of distance acting and directing
Stuck at home during this pandemic, Evergreen High School (EHS) actors could just accept this year as a lost cause or they could use the fear and isolation they felt to resurrect two of the famous monsters in world literature. Dracula and Frankenstein.
Each radio show is approximately 90 minutes long and will be available April 1-3. Those interested can RSVP to listen at sites.google.com/evergreenps.org/ehstheatre/events.
These are the sixth and seventh shows completed by EHS Theatre during this strange year of distant acting and directing. Teacher Margaret Gorman was worried the community would think they picked the wrong shows during this time until she did a readthrough of both Dracula and Frankenstein with the actors and alumni from her program.
“We laughed harder than I heard them laugh in months,” Gorman said. “There’s something about horror that makes you giggle during rehearsal. So I thought, what a perfect time for our audience to hear something exciting and suspenseful and what a great time for us to have two hours each day where we can just get enveloped in these great characters and stories and just laugh hysterically.”
Gorman is also giving her students the opportunity to act and direct these plays. Senior Parker Brown, who directed It’s A Wonderful Life in December, is the assistant director of Dracula while playing Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein and the insane character Renfield in Dracula.
“I like expanding the creative juices,” Brown said. “This is what I want to do after high school, whether it’s voice acting or on stage. So getting the opportunity to direct and play these characters has just been that fuel.”
Senior Cassidy Heap serves as the assistant director of Frankenstein while playing Van Helsing in Dracula and Captain Robert Walton in Frankenstein.
“I think, especially during this time, that it’s really important that we’ve had these kinds of characters to escape to,” Heap said. “It’s been hard. We didn’t go back to school until a few weeks ago. We’ve been virtually online for the entirety of this year. So, it’s been kind of nice to play dress up in your mind.”
A school year like no other
Brown and Heap shared profound thoughts on a school year like no other in recent memory, and how theatre got them through those tough days when classes resumed from home and there were no activities on campus.
“I couldn’t let my mind dwell on stuff I knew was going to get cancelled or already had been cancelled. I just had to accept those facts,” Brown said. “What helped me the most was looking forward to things I knew were going to happen. Directing It’s A Wonderful Life, listening to The North Pole Chronicles and The Last Fives Years, and working on these plays now. All the cool stuff I knew was going to happen.”
Heap and his classmates had to grasp the idea that staying distant might be their reality for a lot longer than they all thought.
“This did pan out a lot longer than we all thought it would, but I think it would be dangerous for anybody in my shoes to dwell on the past. It’s too far gone, and the reality of the situation was always going to be different than what we wanted.” Heap said. “You work with what you got. It’s a year that maybe hasn’t been as fulfilling for all seniors but it’s something that we all needed.”
Zach Braunscheig was going to play The Beast in Evergreen’s production of Beauty and the Beast in the spring of 2020, but the shows were cancelled by the nationwide school shutdown. When he returned in the fall for his senior year, and learning was still distant, Braunscheig approached Gorman and asked to direct The Last Five Years.
“The fact that I had to continue my senior year doing all the things I would have done normally on top of dealing with these brand new emotions that are specific to this new life we had to live. There was no rule book. I was kind of playing off my own decisions, which was difficult, Braunscheig said.
“This year has taught me more about myself and what I am capable of handling,” he added. “I got a senior year experience, just not a cliche typical one. I’m getting pushed into adulthood in an odd matter, but I’m making it. I’m taking a few detours, but I’m almost there.”
Elissa Arbuckle directed Ho, Ho, Ho: The North Pole Chronicles for Evergreen. Gorman said she has never seen so many students wanting to direct plays in her 30 years of teaching theatre.
“There is no end to the pride I have for my students for everything they have endured, learned and produced this year,” Gorman said. “It was never a planned out decision to have the students direct. It was just very instinctual. I trusted these seniors. I knew they were competent and I believed in their capacity for leadership.”
From turmoil to triumph
As teachers and students struggled with distance learning, Gorman worried the pandemic could be the end of the theatre program at Evergreen. Could the actors work on a play from home? Would the program be able to survive without a live audience and the money counted on from ticket sales?
“When we started the new school year still in distance learning, that was probably the hardest time for our group. I was struggling to figure out, after 30 years of doing live theatre, how would I possibly transition to online,” Gorman said. “For as long as I can remember, I have been dancing and doing theatre. Losing that art was more devastating than not seeing my family.”
Instead of giving up, Gorman decided being productive was the best medicine for fear and isolation she felt. And the students jumped on board.
“Theatre is more important to me than ever,” Gorman said. “If there was a time I didn’t want to have this job, this could have pushed me to question that in a lot of ways. I’m just happier directing. I belong in a theatre. And if theatre is on Zoom, then I belong on Zoom with my students.”
Although Gorman rediscovered her passion and commitment to being a teacher, she realizes how hard this school year has been for her public school colleagues across Clark County. The criticizing comments that she and other teachers see on social media takes a toll on their resolve.
“I believe those people’s opinions are their opinions, and I would never say that they’re wrong opinions. But, I do know the truth of being in a fishbowl. I do know how immensely hard this last year has been,” Gorman said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve logged off a class knowing I haven’t reached my students and just cried at the kitchen table. I would just say I have never seen my colleagues work so hard before.
“The more that we value our teachers, the more we value our community and our children. I think we’ve all found out during this time that our best isn’t always good enough, but there’s no one that loves more and works harder to accomplish the impossible,” she added. “What I hope is 20 years from now, people realize teachers do the impossible to keep going when all signs point to no. To love a teacher is to love the kids that the teacher serves.”