Rifle High School seniors use last days of drama to encourage next generation | PostIndependent.com

Rifle High School seniors use last days of drama to encourage next generation

Rifle High School student Lily McCann-Klausz performs during a rehearsal on Feb. 25. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Seniors in Rifle High School drama aren’t squandering their final hurrah.

Friday marked their first curtain call in nearly a year — they’re performing slapstick comedy “Noises Off” once more this weekend — the local thespians say they’re happy to be back not just for the benefit of themselves, but for future generations.

“This is one of the big things that I look forward to — getting to work with a big group and putting on a show, to create something big out of something small,” RHS student and stage manager Karisa Coonds said. “I like having the community come in and enjoy it, especially middle school kids coming to see this, so hopefully the program can continue.”

Coonds said being in drama for the past three years in high school has helped her learn confidence — especially after performing during a live “Matilda” show in Denver last school year.

“Speaking in front of a crowd… It’s something that I‘ve never done before,” she said.

Fellow RHS actor Jason Reyelts echoed this sentiment.

“There’s a lot of the technical side to drama that people don’t realize, like woodworking and drills,” he said. “I’ve been able to use that in my own life, helping my dad out with stuff.”

Rifle High School senior Jason Reyelts rehearses for a play Feb. 25. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Live performances have so far been ruptured by COVID-19. In early March 2020 — on the day of a live show — class was canceled and drama placed on hold. Prior to the closure, the drama club also planned on doing student-directed, one-act plays.

“I’ve missed it a ton,” Reyelts, who plays Garry Lejeune in “Noises Off,” said. “It was really sad when we had to cancel last year.”

But if you stepped into the Rifle High School theater Feb. 25,rehearsals were business as usual, except for the addition of masks. Students — some dressed in checkered bell-bottoms, some adorned in wigs — scrambled up and down the stage. The distinct buzz of power drills permeated the air as stagehands made their final preparations for the performance.

The pre-production action is everything RHS senior Embrey Marantino wanted.

“I’ve been interested in drama, pretty much since like first grade,” he said. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been coming up here with my parents. I’ve always told them I’ve always wanted to drama in high school.”

Lily McCann-Klausz, left, stands in place as stage manager and Rifle High School senior Karisa Coonds helps her with her stage clothes Feb. 25. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“Noises Off” is perhaps the best send off a senior who’s endured COVID-19 could ever ask for. Marantino, who plays Frederick Fellowes, said a classic slapstick like this is easier to convey than tragedy and moving somebody emotionally.”

“Jason and I try to kill each other,” Marantino joked. Both his and Reyelts’ characters go at it in one of the final scenes. In fact, Martantina said Reyelts’ character goes at him with an axe.

The past year has been punctuated with question marks for Coonds, Reyelts and Marantino. Plans to do a musical in fall 2020 were also put on hold, while all other activities — including sports — were essentially pushed back toward the final months of the school year.

Marantino was asked to sum up his senior year.

“In one word — odd or upsetting. One of those two,” he said. “Odd obviously because of the masks and not being able to do typical stuff.”

Rifle High School senior stagehand Seth Mathias puts the finishing touches on set during a rehearsal Feb. 25. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Coonds said, however, that she’s gotten to witness everyone “improv” beyond the stage.

“It’s been hard, but it’s also been really cool to see how teachers and different people in the community have tried to make it a better year for us,” she said. “Like, with our play, we can’t have as many seats but at least we were able to perform.”

During the live performances, audience members could only fill in the back three rows. Still, for Marantino, the production is one last moment he has with his fellow thespians.

“We’re either a family,” he said, “or a religious cult.”


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