Curtain call: Rifle High School drama club prepares for upcoming play

Rifle High School junior Izzy Pace works Saturday on the set for an upcoming play. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

Rifle High School students Erynn McCathern and Izzy Pace spent a frigid Saturday afternoon inside the school cafeteria, delicately applying strokes of paint onto pieces of set.

“We can’t even wear the face shields,” Pace, a junior, said of how students will go about performing this year under COVID-19 regulations. “Instead, we have to wear masks. So that takes away a lot to the emotion that we can portray out of it. It’s a lot of eye movement and vocals.”

It’s taken half a year, but the drama club at Rifle High School is now preparing to make a triumphant return to the stage.

“It’s super exciting,” Pace said.

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the students have spent hours each day after school rehearsing their lines, assembling sets and essentially improvising their way through some of the most unique circumstances to ever hit the stage over the past 100 years.

Come Feb. 24, their undying love for putting on a live show will once again blossom as they prepare for “Noises Off,” a 1982 comedy originally written by English playwright Michael Frayn. The play marks their first of the school year.

For McCathern, a senior who plans to study arts in college, the show couldn’t come any sooner. Though audience members will be restricted to the back four rows while actors’ must wear masks, she said drama students are “willing to do just about anything” to get back on stage.

“It’s a little upsetting hearing about sports trying to get the regulation so that sports players don’t have to have any masks,” she said. “Yet, we’re still in there, with really far seating.”

“Most of us don’t really do sports — we do drama,” she later added. “Drama to us is like sports to athletes.”

Rifle High School senior Erynn McCathern prepares the set for an upcoming play. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

In addition, just like how if a team performs well during the regular season they get to play at a bigger stage, so does drama. The club’s notable production of “Matilda” in 2019 prompted the Colorado Thespians to invite them to perform in front of 6,000 people at Denver’s BellCo Theater.

“Just not having the thrill of that is just kind of saddening,” Pace said of being away from the stage for so long. “We’re kind of on a high from that and now we’re kind of like grounded again, so I think it’s really nice.”

Normally the drama club does one play, one musical as well as one-act plays directed by the students themselves, Pace said. This year, the drama club planned on putting on one musical and two plays — until COVID-19.

The prolonged time away from the stage, however, has given students an opportunity to really refine their skills. The two young thespians said they’ve spent more time with auditions, learning songs and further acclimating themselves with the plays.

“Drama is a big part of our lives,” McCathern said. “We don’t do a ton of other extracurriculars.”

Had the curtain remained closed, the students said they’d likely be sitting at home. McCathern said she might go back to playing volleyball — a sport she quit her freshman year.

So for McCathern and Pace, right now simply they’re antsy for showtime.

“Even if it’s just a limited number of people, we’re hoping that people can come see it,” McCathern said. “We’re really excited to start doing this again.”

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