The Nixa High School theater department put on “Pirates of Penzance”


Macie Clark

Patrick Sweet holds up a knife while performing.

This semester, the Nixa theater department put on its annual fall play and brought pirate barbarity to the stage in their performance of “The Pirates of Penzance.”
The story line involves a young man named Frederic, played by sophomore Cooper Carson, who is indentured to a band of pirates and a Pirate King, played by senior Kaleb Creason. As problems arise, Frederic’s apprenticeship lasts longer than expected, and he is bound to continue to serve the pirates through their troublesome conflicts with the police and a group of young girls, as well as his love interest Mabel played by senior Leah Martin. Frederic’s nanny Ruth is played by senior Alexandria “Lexi” Wools, and her involvement creates more conflicts between her and Frederic as well as the main three groups.
Before and during the time that the cast began working on the show, there were certain obstacles that held them back, specifically mold that was growing in the auditorium and theater rooms.
“As they cleaned the auditorium and stage, we improvised with the main gym, auditorium gym or the classroom and rehearsed in there,” Wools said. “We didn’t get to use the actual set at first, but as soon as the mold was cleared, we overcame that.”
The audition process took place in three separate parts. First, hopeful students went in and performed a one-minute monologue from a play. Once that was done, they then chose a list of songs to sing in front of the directors with a piano accompaniment that played along with them.
The last part of auditioning was to learn a dance in 20 minutes and perform that as well. If the directors liked a certain person’s performance, the student would get a callback where the casting decisions would be narrowed down and decided on.
A new aspect that the play brought to the Nixa stage was the fact that it is an operetta with a live orchestra pit accompanying the music.
Although different and new, the changes were welcomed by the directors and cast. Cory Glenn, the stagecraft teacher and director, expanded on the additional changes that the play brought to the stage this fall.
“Neither me or Fleetwood has worked on this before,” Glenn said. “It has challenging vocal aspects which would help the growth of the department, and also has a large ensemble, which is neat and allows more kids to be involved.”
The cast this year has varying levels of experience when it comes to their years in theater; some starting in junior high or high school. The similarity, however, is their enjoyment of performing and the environment theater creates.
“I love performing with people, and I love the atmosphere theater creates,” Wools said. “It’s such a welcoming group, and it’s cool that we get to teach people through each of our performances.”
The cast and crew worked on getting the show ready for months, and with this came a lot of time and work dedicated towards the play. Additionally, certain individuals involved with the fall play had been working on a separate upcoming play “The Drowsy Chaperone” at the same time.
They came in on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for four hours and sometimes after school, and occasionally parts of the cast rehearsed during STAR to improve their scenes. Certain days were put aside for learning choreography, doing vocal preparation or perfecting specified parts of the play.
“We’ve been working on the show for two or three months,” Carson said. “It’s a lot to get into, and it often gets hard to memorize all the lines and learn the choreography and music.”
Along with the regular rehearsals that also come with other plays, this year they had orchestra pit rehearsals. With these, the cast was allowed to sing with the instruments and the live orchestra to get their songs down.
Like other extracurricular activities, some rehearsals or aspects were at times difficult for those involved, but these trials led to progressions with the scenes.
“The hard numbers are what make the performance perfect,” Carson said. “If you get that good, everything will flow good and look great visually, which is one of our main goals.”
Another thing that made both the cast and directors seem to enjoy the rehearsals more is finally getting the opportunity to perform on the show date and getting to do this in front of a live audience.
“The audience is the best part of the process,” Glenn said. “When you can sit in a room and share the same air with a group of people and perform, it makes all the work worth it.”
During the process of getting the play ready for the big day, the cast establishes close bonds with one another, which helps aid in the development of the play and speeds the rehearsal process up.
“The cast this year is a group of fun people who I consider my friends,” Carson said. “Even on the frustrating days, we have fun and make the day better. It’s never not a good time with them.” The play may have seemed to simply be a fun and classic story, but the directors and cast saw that there were themes that were able to be spread to the audience by watching the conflicts in the scenes and how the characters reacted to each.
“There’s a lot of fun coming of age questions throughout the performance,” Glenn said. “Since it is highschoolers performing and showing these themes, it gives more of an opportunity to be thought about.”
A theme that was evident with the main characters was a theme of change and to find your true self in the midst of conflicts, which was seen with Ruth, who underwent a surprising and unforeseen change during the show.
“I love Act II because my character breaks free from her nanny role and becomes a kick-butt pirate,” Wools said. “Just seeing her get out of her comfort zone and completely change personalities is really cool to watch.”
Some of the cast could find similarities in their real lives to their roles on the stage. These could have helped them feel more connected to their character, and could also help them learn important things about themselves.
“I relate to Ruth a lot,” Wools said. “Her having to step out of her role and find her individuality as a person and become who she wants to be is something I can really apply to my life.”
Along with the new aspects and details in the play, the cast hoped that everyone watched the play enjoyed the performance.
“It’s just a classic that everyone should come to see once in their life,” Wools said. “We’ve put in a lot of work, and there’s a lot of talented kids in the show that makes it worth watching.”
The play was performed on Nov. 18, 19 and 21-23.