By Tom Ganser
The Whitewater High School Drama Department will be staging the spring musical, “Summer Shorts,” on May 21, at 7 p.m., and May 22-23, at 2 p.m., at the new Cravath Lakefront Amphitheater.
This will be the first live performance for the Whitewater Unified School District theater program since the WHS Players production of “Tales of Poe” Feb. 27-29 and Mar. 1, 2020. Fortunately, the persistent squawk of “Nevermore!” by the raven in the first terrifying tale performed then has proved to be incorrect when it comes to live plays in Whitewater—back again despite the pandemic.
Live music, singing, and dancing is what “Summer Shorts” is all about, offering a patchwork of whimsical and touching stories, skits, and songs about friendship, family, and summer fun from beloved movies and Broadway shows.
Laugh ‘til you cry, or cry ‘til you laugh. Either way, “Summer Shorts” has something for every member of the family to enjoy. What better way to celebrate the return of live entertainment than outdoors on Whitewater’s newest stage.
The show is directed by Jim McCulloch, with musical direction by Elizabeth Elliott and technical support by Kat Dunham and Tony Hansen.
The talented ensemble includes: Maggie Jay, Ella Willman, Lauren Rollette, Marco Wence, Madison Strickler, Josh Kirley, Skylar Staebler, Chloe Prince, Ben McCulloch, Cosette Wildermuth-Breitzman, Carter Waelchli, Anderson Waelchli, Haley Street, Ilana Lothes, Ayden Clark, Alex Sullivan, and Payton Bunger.
Stage crew members are Alejandra Diaz-Gallegos, Emerson Dunham, Claire Tourdot, Sammie VanDaele, Lucas Scherer, Lucy Troxel, Emma Weigel, Cole Schlicher, Kayla Mikos, Abby Olsen, Gwen Yeager, and Keith Cameron.
Band members include keyboard Liz Elliott (keyboard), Tim Hummel (drums), and Caleigh Judd (bass).
Admission to “Summer Shorts” is free, but reservations are required. Patrons must reserve a private “pod” to attend this event. Pods are 8′ x 8′ square outlines painted on the grass. Each pod can seat up to 8 guests, and pods are spaced apart to help maintain social distancing. Blankets, lawn chairs, non-alcoholic beverages, and picnics are encouraged. There are two points of entry to the performance space where guests can check in upon arrival. Ushers will then take them to their pods. Pods open one hour prior to the performance.
Admission is free; however, donations will be gladly accepted. All proceeds will go to the Anne and Lane Kuske Drama Scholarship fund. This annual scholarship is awarded to a WHS graduate who is pursuing a degree in theatre. Shows will be moved to the WHS Auditorium in case of bad weather.
To make reservations, call the WHS box office at 262-472-8178, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
According to McCulloch, the primary reason for producing “Summer Shorts” is to keep the drama program relevant and to give students, especially seniors, an opportunity to perform live on stage.
“It has been a difficult year for everyone,” McCulloch said. “This year’s graduates were at risk of losing out on the final performances of their high school careers. I can’t tell you how inspiring it has been to hear voices echoing through the halls of the school once again.”
“Bringing people together again to share the joy of music, laughter, and a sense of community was another goal we wanted to achieve though this production,” McCulloch added.
“By performing at the new Cravath Lakefront Amphitheater I feel that we are providing our audiences with a safe and memorable experience as well as a reassurance that there are better days ahead.”
Elizabeth Elliott described this show as “a great experience for all of us, myself included, because it has allowed us to work together again, make music together again, and create something again.”
“As an artist,” Elliott continued, “you notice when those things are missing, and it has been so amazing working with these students. The joy and energy they bring has been incredibly fun, and has raised spirits despite the trying times of this pandemic. Because this show is not our typical musical, it has allowed many students to have solos, small group ensembles, and a variety of monologues. It has provided an outlet for students to work and mentor others, whether it’s helping with learning singing parts, dances, or making new friends and connections.”
Actors Payton Bunger (Grade 8), Haley Street (Grade 11), and Cosette Wildermuth-Breitzman (Grade 9), point out that “Summer Shorts” is a collection of short skits and songs rather than a full play.
“It’s very different for me,” Bunger shared, “because it doesn’t revolve around a single musical but multiple songs from different musicals.”
Likewise, Street noted, “I think the biggest challenge is that it’s not just one musical. It’s songs and skits from a whole bunch of them. So where we usually all got one character to play we now each have several.”
After having participated in virtual schooling “for a long time,” Wildermuth-Breitzman commented, “it is great to connect with people again.” She also picked neopolitan as an ice cream flavor to represent “Summer Shorts” because “we do a little bit of everything” and orange as a color because it is “fun and bright.”
The color that comes to mind to Street for the entire production is “a bright grass green. It’s so lively and wonderful that every time I picture it, I can almost see rolling hills and people running around enjoying the best days of summer. I hope everyone else sees it like that too, because that’s what we’re going for. Haley Street.”
“’Summer Shorts’ is such a unique opportunity for everyone to shine. We are all so excited to share some of the first live theater in a while with the community!” stated Senior Ella Willman, who has performed in nine plays or musicals in Whitewater.
Looking ahead, the WUSD Summer School Playhouse will be performing “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure Jr.” July 8-9 at 7 p.m. and July 10 at 2 p.m.