Bingham thespians to present ‘A New World,’ ‘Hamlet, the Film’May 01, 2021 10:38AM ● By Julie Slama
Bingham High’s cast of “Fortress,” holding the first-place region plaque, were slated to compete at state in April. (Photo courtesy of Bingham Theatre Co.)
By Julie Slama|[email protected]
As the school year comes to an end, Bingham High theater students aren’t ready to leave their stage yet.
In early May, the 22-member musical theatre class will perform “A New World” at 7 p.m., May 4–6 as a “cabaret-style review,” said director Brittany Andersen, a first-year Bingham High theater teacher.
The theme of the show is the “world” within and beyond high school.
“Using pieces of music from multiple musicals and original monologues written by students; scenes from different plays, musicals or movies; and some original scripting I have written, the show gives a heartwarming and comedic look at the average ‘teenage life,’” she said.
Performances will be in the Copper Pit at Bingham High, 2160 South Jordan Parkway. Tickets are available at https://binghamathletics.com/event-tickets.
On May 20–21, seniors will be highlighting the stage, directing 10- to 20-minute plays ranging from comedy to tragedy. Three Theatre 4 students also are writing and directing their own plays.
To wrap up the year, at 7 p.m., May 27–28, the yearlong production of “Hamlet, the Film” will be aired in the Copper Pit.
Filming began in the fall with the plan to shoot scenes around students’ possible quarantining after possible exposure to COVID-19. Instead, the school was shut down multiple times, which delayed the process—then it was put on pause to allow students to concentrate on the school musical, said director Jason Purdie, who also is new at Bingham High.
“We’re rehearsing scenes that we still have to shoot,” he said in early April, anticipating those to be done by early May. “We got back into it in mid-March. For the most part, the students are really excited that this is going to happen because we weren’t sure after seeing how things went this fall.”
Andersen said that she is excited to see the film platform.
“’Hamlet’ is going to be awesome,” she said. “Mr. Purdie is a genius with Shakespeare, and an experienced filmmaker. I was so excited when he decided to shift to the film platform for the ‘fall play.’”
The pandemic also caused them to switch musicals to “Mamma Mia!” and after a postponement because of COVID-19, the show took the stage in early March, directed by Andersen.
Purdie, who was the technical director, said he was amazed.
“There was a great turnout, and the audience just loved it,” he said. “I was blown away at what she (Andersen) did with the show, and the kids loved it and her. It was a huge success.”
Andersen said the decision to change show to “Mamma Mia!” was for the “fun aspect of the show.” [Jason] Purdie and I both love ABBA music, and we decided it would be the best fit for our kids and community,” she said, adding that some of the narrative was edited for language and suggestive tones to make it more appropriate.
Early in rehearsals, the cast of about 100 students was divided, with some working on choreography with Andersen and others rehearsing music under music director Andrea Chapman.
“Kids always wore their masks during rehearsals, but it was when we got closer to opening and were doing costume runs with the cast backstage that students wore their masks less and less, which caused the inevitable COVID-19 outbreak in our cast,” she said. “Two days before opening I had three cast members report they tested positive, then with contact-tracing and more reports of positive cases, I decided to postpone opening for two weeks.”
With other performances slated for the stage, it required the set to be torn down, rebuilt and torn down a second time on a tight schedule.
“It was madness, but totally worth it,” Andersen said. “The energy and excitement of the cast and audience made the ‘restricted size’ seem like it was a sold-out house. The best part, for me, has been to give these kids such a joyful, powerful experience. The most comments I received were thank-yous for giving these students a normal experience this school year. There was so much joy spilling off of that stage and spreading throughout the audience, I couldn't help, but just be proud and honored that this is my job—and these are the memories I get to help make for these kids.”
A bittersweet moment, however, was that for one of the leads tested positive during the new performance dates, and Andersen realized she had forgotten to cast an understudy for him.
“So, I had a kid step in Friday morning, around 10 a.m., and learn the role,” she said. “He rehearsed all day, and [it] was memorized and ready to perform that evening. I'm telling you, these kids are amazing.”
That show launched them right into their one-act “Fortress,” which was their competition piece at region, and they won first place. Even so, the ensemble didn’t avoid COVID-19, as two students had to sit out for exposure, so parts were doubled up among the 10 remaining cast members.
“I love the show; it’s a great ensemble piece with moving parts of the story,” said Purdie, who directed it and put on an evening show for family and friends about how a 9-year-old boy learns he was adopted and retreats into his own world to model his life after a famous fictional orphan—Superman.
In addition, Bingham students qualified in every individual event they competed in at region bringing home third place overall. In late April, about 35 Miners will compete at state.
“That about wraps it up,” Purdie said. “It’s been quite the year.”