High School Takes The Stage

A Catholic high school will set the stage for the upcoming blackbox production, “Spirit.”

A classic story with a twist, “Spirit” is an original musical that features 20 songs in classic musical theater style with rock and pop influences.

Mallary Walton, a fourth-year theater performance and biology double-major and the show’s director and musical director, was introduced to the musical after attending a production at her sister’s school, SUNY Fredonia, where one of the show’s writers got his education.

Walton said the show hasn’t left her since the first time she saw it, and knew she wanted to bring the show to the stage herself as soon as she was given the opportunity.

“I was moved by the music, which is fantastic, and touched by the message of the musical,” Walton said. “I became interested in directing just last fall when I transfered to New Paltz. When I was told about the opportunity students have here to submit a blackbox proposal, I knew I wanted to give myself and ‘Spirit’ a chance.”

This production being Walton’s directoral debut outside of a classroom setting, “Spirit” is completely student-run and participated, consisting of a band of musicians and a cast of 21 performers, a considerably large amount for a mainstage production, let alone one being performed in a setting as intimate as Parker Theatre, Walton said.

“Spirit” represents classic cliques portrayed in the stereotypical high school environment, including jocks, nerds, drama kids and preps. Common problems students in high school face are explored throughout the production as well.

Walton hopes that if audience members walk away from the show with anything, it’s a newfound acceptance for those different from them.

“This show reveals to the audience that there is so much more to a person than what is on the surface and if we spend some time looking just a little deeper, we might find that we are not so different after all,” she said. “‘Spirit’ also teaches that we are not alone, no matter how alone we may feel.”

Since the production features so many cast members, it is important for each actor to be able to bond with their character in order to properly portray them onstage.

Jessica Contino, a third-year performance major, plays Emily, a character who is trying to find the balance between obtaining popularity and true friendship.

Contino said a lot of her preparation for the show came from thinking about what her character says and why she says it, including figuring out the pre-story to Emily’s life before she appears onstage.

“Understanding who the character is before he or she has any lines onstage grounds the actor to be nothing but truthful while telling the story,” she said.

Contino said being involved in “Spirit” has taught her that everyone is struggling with something stressful and emotional, and that conversations within a show’s cast can teach just as much as the script of the show itself.

For Paul Lander, a second-year theater performance major, who plays an ensemble member and understudies two lead male roles, getting into character was easier than he thought.

“The fact that the show is so real it was very interesting and fun,” he said. “It brought me back to high school in some very emotional ways. It makes you remember how despite everyone being unique, everyone goes through the same or similar problems.”

The production will open on Friday, Dec. 6 and will run through Sunday, Dec. 8 in Parker Theatre with performances at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday.