In one form or another, the shows have gone on for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years at Scarsdale and Edgemont high schools, whether there were masks, limited audiences, virtual shows, shows made as movies or even outdoor productions. This weekend, however, marks the first show in two years for both schools that will feature theater as it was pre-COVID-19 pandemic.
Scarsdale High School presents the drama “Clue,” while Edgemont is staging the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
“It’s super exciting,” Scarsdale senior Eve Rich, who plays Mrs. Peacock, said. “I only joined Drama Club last year, so it was basically all virtual or had some COVID component. I’m super-grateful I can have a lead role and a fully booked audience and not have to worry about wearing a mask on stage and how that’s going to affect my mike and everything.
“I’m just really proud of all the work Mrs. [Barbara] Malecki and everyone has put in trying to adjust to all the COVID requirements with our past productions and it’s definitely a sigh of relief we don’t have to deal with that this time.”
Director Barbara Malecki was pleasantly surprised to see so many seniors audition for the drama this spring — they often have other commitments or are busy with the senior show — with most of the main roles going to the twelfth graders. For that reason, Malecki expanded the cast from 10 to 14 to make sure some of the younger students got a chance to participate.
“I think the title really drew the seniors in,” Malecki said. “Most of our leads are seniors and that pretty much never happens. The last time I had this many seniors was ‘The Laramie Project’ in 2019, another big title that drew them in. I look at who I have, which I did, and then I had even more people than I expected who were older, which was terrific. They all worked out pretty perfectly, I think. All these kids are so perfect for their roles.”
Malecki tries to rotate genres for the drama so if a student participates all four years he or she has the chance to experience all types of shows. This year is the murder mystery, while other years are a classical play, a classic play or a docudrama.
In addition to the stars themselves, the costumes made by Carla Gant also stand out, as does the intricate set designed by first-year technical theater director Dr. David Graybill. Graybill made his debut in the fall with Scarsdale’s version of “Spelling Bee,” but the sets for that were not very demanding. “This is his baby,” Malecki said of the “Clue” set. “This set is amazing. It’s like a puzzle piece. Each room pulls out like a puzzle they spin around, each cart is multiple rooms and that was his genius. I don’t want to say it’s everything he can do because I’m sure he can do so much more, but this really shows off his technical prowess.”
The towering set, which encompasses the entire stage and all sightlines, was constructed with the help of a record number of students working several long Saturdays between building and painting.
“It’s been a real community effort,” Malecki said. “We’ve never had this many kids work on the set before. Mrs. Peacock [Eve Rich] did all the texture work toward the top of the set.”
The set and costumes really make the show for Rich.
“I just love how classic the show is — everyone knows what ‘Clue’ is,” she said. “It’s really fun being in the classic costumes and playing a character I always used to want to have the board piece of when I was little. And Dr. Graybill with the set it’s just insane. I love all the moving components and how silly all the entrances and exits are.”
Her message to anyone thinking of seeing the show is, “I’d say they’re in for a surprise and lots of twists and lots of funny humor.”
Edgemont chose “Spelling Bee” because it needed to have a lighter set because chorus classes use not only the stage, but the auditorium seating for classes each day, so while their set won’t be a star, the students will truly be able to shine with the quirky characters they’ll be portraying.
“I really love that each character has something to bring to the stage and each character has their own story and the way that the cast this year is presenting that is phenomenal,” said Edgemont senior Rebecca Kim said. “It just comes together and all the personalities bounce off each other. There are so many different interactions that happen on stage. It can be comical or it can be tragic. There are so many different emotions from these characters in the show.”
The show also had to be light on orchestration due to spacing guidelines still in place for wind instrument players.
“We can’t be doing a Rodgers and Hammerstein show with a full orchestra or there would be nowhere for the audience to sit,” said John Catoliato, the K-12 Teacher Leader for Fine and Performing Arts for the past nine years. “We had to pick something that was fairly small in the pit, but also utilized the number of students that expressed interest in it. We don’t make cuts, so we try to gauge interest before we go in and try to use that to help decide on a show.”
Kim has worked behind the scenes on some shows, in the cast of some shows and pulled double duty in others, like she is doing now.
“It’s really interesting to see all the different sides of a production from advertising the show to being in the show or being backstage or handling costumes and getting to meet all these people that have to work together to make this masterpiece,” she said.
In “Spelling Bee,” Kim plays Marci Park, while also being in charge of posters, programs, lobby display, website and public relations. Juniors Casey Blumberg and Zoe Schuldenfrei, who plays Rona Lisa Peretti, have also been key in helping the professional staff. Blumberg is the stage manager and assistant producer, while Schuldenfrei is a student leader who has helped to keep cast, crew and pit informed and on task throughout the production.
Two faculty members, Catoliato and Adrianne Amorosa, an art teacher, are also heavily involved in the production in support of KJK Productions, which provides a director, Robert Graham, plus sets and costumes.
The junior high productions have worked with KJK for many years and the senior high began contracting with them during the pandemic for various virtual options and the relationship has continued and grown.
“They’re fantastic,” Catoliato said. “I can’t say enough nice things about KJK. They’re very professional and they’ve done a great job with a very difficult and always-changing set of rules and regulations.”
Edgemont’s pandemic productions prior to this ran the gamut of virtual where the cast never met in person to filmed to limited audience to masked indoors to even an outdoor production. The students did whatever it took to give the shows the best chance to happen, even if the circumstances were less than ideal.
“I’m so happy to see a full blown production going on the stage with a live audience,” Catoliato said. “It seems like we’ve done every version of a show since ‘Grease’ right before the pandemic hit… The students are amazing. They’re incredibly flexible and adaptable and they are really committed to getting the most out of whatever we can do.”
To see “Spelling Bee” come together after several months of work on and off the stage is a dream come true for Edgemont’s students.
“It’s a little bit sad that it’s ending of course, but it’s very much worth the work and effort we put into the show,” Kim said. “To be able to see it come together, especially as my last show, it’s like putting a bow on my theater career at Edgemont. It’s just very fulfilling to see everything come together so beautifully.”