A year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of their spring theatrical production of "Radium Girls," Hermantown High School is getting ready to present its first in-person show.
"We were told to go home at the end of the day (March 17, 2020) and to cancel all practices. We were first told it would be a couple of weeks, so we asked the kids to remember to take their scripts home and continue to practice their lines. We postponed the performance for a later date," said director Theresa Taraldsen. "When we learned school would be closed until the end of the school year, we were devastated and heartbroken. 'Radium Girls' was one of the finest shows we have ever done, and nobody ever got to see it."
Taraldsen said they kept the set pieces and props ready until the fall. Finally, in October, they packed everything up and started anew. After producing a virtual musical revue in the fall, Tarladsen and fellow director Ken Ahlberg found a script that deals with the pandemic itself.
"When we got the OK to do a spring show this year, we were sure to pick a script that could be performed live on stage or from their homes," Taraldsen said. "'10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine' is a new comedy that tries to find light and humor in this crazy year we have all experienced."
Written by Don Zolidis within the past year, the script was created to be performed by high schools still wanting to produce a show in lockdown. The show can be performed virtually or adapted to the stage and allow for plenty of social distancing.
The show is made up of a series of short scenes featuring students finding new and inventive ways to keep themselves occupied during lockdown. The solutions range from making friends with inanimate objects to pretending to be a sports announcer while playing a game of solitaire to staging musicals with your household pets. Each of the scenes were rehearsed independently with the directors and have only started to be stitched together within the past two weeks.
Senior Josie Harris isn't a big fan of this method. She said she prefers interacting with her fellow actors over her current furry co-star, her 9-year-old dog, Bella.
"She's a very good dog, but it's hard to ensure she'll do what she's supposed to," Harris said. "But I am glad it's actually happening. We're actually doing a show."
At least one student had actually tried one of the wacky methods of survival promoted in the show. Sophomore Lily Meichsner tried a new hobby toward the start of lockdown last spring.
"I did try origami, and it went about as well as the scene shows. I ended up making a bunch of paper airplanes and just throwing them around my room for a couple of hours," she said. "That was actually pretty good."
Seventh-grader Annabel Hanson learned a new game thanks to the show.
"I'd never played solitaire before, so I learned it for my scene, and now I actually enjoy playing it," Hanson said. "It takes up time when you're bored and not doing anything."
For some students, the show provides them the opportunity to both reflect on the past year in lockdown as well as the chance to look ahead.
"I think this is the perfect time to do this kind of play because things are starting to get a little better," said eighth-grader Karolyn Deiss. "We can look back on things like the toilet paper stuff and laugh and also look at the brighter future."
If you go
What: Hermantown Drama Club's presentation of "10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine" by Don Zolidis.
When: 7 p.m. April 19-20 in-person, anytime virtually April 23-25.
Where: Hermantown High School Auditorium, 4335 Hawk Circle Dr. Also virtually at hhstheatre.anywhereseat.com.
Tickets: $8 adults, $6 students. Buy tickets at hhstheatre.ludus.com for live performances. Tickets limited to 275 people. All groups will be spaced 6 feet apart.
Other high school productions
Hermantown High School isn't the only local school set to put on a show this spring. Here are other shows set to perform both in-person and/or virtual shows this season:
Denfeld High School
What: Simon VanVactor-Lee's backyard adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth."
When: 7 p.m. April 29-May 1 in-person, anytime virtually May 6-8.
Where: The in-person performances will be held on the grounds of Denfeld High School behind the theater, 401 N. 44th Ave. W., Duluth. Virtual performances will be held via YouTube, the link to which is yet to be determined.
Tickets: Donations to support Denfeld Theater are appreciated, both in-person and online.
Duluth East High School
What: "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl, an adaptation of the classic myth of Orpheus from the perspective of Eurydice.
When: 7 p.m. May 6-8
Where: Duluth East High School theater, 301 N. 40th Ave. E., Duluth.
Tickets: $13 adults, $8 students.
Harbor City International School
What: “The Birds” by Aristophanes, arranged by Walter Kerr.
When: 6:30 p.m. June 4-5, 2 p.m. June 6
Where: Gichi-Ode’ Akiing (formerly Lake Place Park), 214 E. Superior St., Duluth.
Rather than a typical play, Duluth Marshall students worked in partnership with Wherehouse Productions and Greysolon to create a filmed version of “The Importance of Being Ernest.” As of publication, it is uncertain whether a public performance of the show will be available due to copyright restrictions. A special in-person premiere will be held for actors, crew and their families on May 7.
Superior High School
Students are making a movie for this spring's drama production. The show is an original choose-your-own-adventure film written by Luke Moravec called "Saturday Ghost Club." A movie premiere in May, and possibly a DVD, will be available to the public.
Northwestern High School
Northwestern’s production of “It’s Vaudeville,” a comedy by Mike Swift, was presented Feb. 28. The show is still available online on the School District of Maple YouTube page.
Cloquet High School
Cloquet High School will be performing "Cut!" by Ed Monk on April 30 and May 1, but due to restrictions, no general admission seats are available.