“Five minutes to curtain!” yells junior Ellie Churchill as she walks across the Ted Sorensen Theatre stage.
Churchill is the student stage manager of the Lincoln High School One Act Play Production. It’s the night before districts, hosted by LHS, and this will be the last chance to run through the show before the competition tomorrow.
Everything has to be perfect.
The challenge? Put on a complete show – in this case Spirit Shall Fly, by Mary Hall Surface – complete with sets, costumes, and makeup, from start to finish in under 30 minutes.
The theatre is abuzz with activity as crew members in the house check lights and sound cues, vacuum the theatre, and tape off seats for judges. Backstage they are getting props ready, checking to be sure all of the set pieces are stacked and in place, and putting last-minute touches on costumes.
Actors are in the Black Box getting ready to perform by doing vocal and physical warm-up exercises. They stand in a circle, in costume, led by senior Harper Lundine Wilmoth who will play the part of Floyd in the show. They’ve been working for weeks for this, and it’s time. LHS theatre director Justin Holbein gives one last talk before they take the stage.
“Break a leg,” he says, and the house lights dim.
Spirit Shall Fly is the story of a young inner-city boy, Trey (Mackenzie Davenport) who has been arrested and placed in alternative-to-jail program on a horse ranch. The owner of the ranch, Clara (Kathryn Dorenbach) teaches Trey how to work with horses, and he forms a bond with a wild mustang named Anima (Dylan Nyhoff). In the process, he also learns patience and self-confidence.
The show also features a cast of the ghosts of Trey’s past, including Gordon (Thomas McChristian) who haunts and taunts Trey throughout the play.
As the lights go down on the final scene, the stopwatch clicks. Time? 28:46:44.
Ready for tomorrow.
Seconds after that, the cast disappears from the stage, and the tech crew races into action, disassembling the set, stacking pieces on dolly carts, and whisking them through the stage doors out of sight. Two last crew members sweep straw off the floor, and the stage is empty again, ready for the next performers.
Directed and managed by the cast and crew, Spirit Shall Fly is truly a student production. The set, costumes, and makeup were designed and produced entirely by students, and the show is supported by an all-student running crew including lights, sound, and tech.
Tomorrow, Dec. 5, 2016, the theatre, and the building, will be packed with drama teams from area schools all hoping to gain that top spot and a ticket to the state competition.
Can Lincoln High maintain its presence as a drama leader in Nebraska? There’s only one way to find out.