The following is the original version of a story that ran on the Beaumont Enterprise website.
BEAUMONT, Texas — When All Saints Episcopal School closed its campus in response to the coronavirus pandemic, middle school drama teacher Ramona Young decided that what the students needed to distract them was production. Meanwhile, playwright Don Zolidis was working on a new play, “10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine.”
It was a match made in isolation.
“I knew my drama students would be looking for ways to pass the time,” Young said. “When I saw this show was going to be available it seemed like the perfect project. We held online auditions and I was delighted with how many students tried out.”
The All Saints production will stream April 30 at 7 p.m. CST and May 1 at noon CST. The link to watch live will be available on All Saints Facebook page.
The cast of 24 students, who range from sixth to eighth grade, have been rehearsing daily in 15-minute individual sessions. They have been arranging their rooms into sets, gathering props and creating their own costumes.
“It’s really important that the students are able to take ownership of the show,” Young said. “They have been their own set designers, lighting techs and cinematographers. In some ways, they are getting a fuller experience than if they were part of a traditional show — everyone is the star of their own production.”
Zolidis said he wrote the play in response to so many school productions being cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to create something that could be fun, and diverting, and give people some joy during all of this,” he said. “I wrote the initial version of the script in about four days, and it was published a week or so afterwards, so this was a very quick turnaround for me.”
The play has proved to be quite popular, Zolidis said. More than 100 schools that have applied for rights, and it’s being performed in seven different countries.
Seventh grader Jack Lostak plays a character who creates a new “best friend” to talk to during the isolation.
“It allows me to channel my inner insanity,” he said.
Lostak said he likes the structure of the play.
“It different in that it’s seeing different points of view and allows students to act inside their own environments,” he said.
“10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine” is a perfect mix of silliness and cleverness, and the characters are well developed, even though each scene is only a few minutes. The characters explore different ways people deal with being shut in, with hilarious results.
Zolidis said people respond to his plays because they’re very performer-centered.
“I make sure that there are no small, boring roles — everyone gets a chance to have a moment to shine, even if they have a smaller part,” he said.
Sixth-grader Ben Depew said the play has helped him stay in touch with his classmates.
“I think it’s pretty cool that we still get to meet up through the class meets,” he said. “I think it’s pretty funny, despite having to do it all ourselves. I have seen the other scenes and it’s pretty amazing, actually.”
Zolidis, who has written two novels and more than 100 plays and one-acts for teenagers, said he loves watching school performances of his shows.
“It’s fun to see how different the interpretations can be, and what everyone does with their role,” he said.
Emaline Hickman and Sarah Laine play the hosts who introduce the scenes. Hickman said the play has helped deal with being isolated at home.
“It’s helped me talk to people, and not just my family — it’s better than being alone,” she said. “The thing I like about theater is the friendships — it’s like a big family.”
Laine said she enjoyed preparing for the scenes.
“I liked dressing up — I have red hair now — and creating my own set,” she said.
Young said the quarantine has been a learning curve for both teachers and students alike but putting on the show has been a wonderful experience.
“I think the kids have enjoyed having a project to occupy their time and they’ve really embraced the challenge,” she said. “I am really pleased with what they’ve come up with and I think people will enjoy watching it.”
For a link to the story published online, click here.