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The City Journals

Cottonwood High theatre creates ‘normalcy’ for students during pandemic year

May 03, 2021 12:42PM ● By Julie Slama

“Tuck Everlasting,” staring Jacob Jones as Jessie Tuck and Ivy Dunbar as Winnie Foster, will open May 6 at Cottonwood High School. (Photo courtesy of Abbie Tuckness)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This year, Cottonwood High theatre teacher Adam Wilkins has been on a mission.

“I just tell myself ‘sustain, sustain, sustain,’” he said. “Last spring, we canceled our spring play and school because of COVID-19 and this year, I want theater to be an anchor for our students. Some of them have felt lost or scared, and I want to create normalcy and have theatre be that light at the end of the tunnel for them.”

That has included having a link that says, “Stressed?” on the Cottonwood Theatre Society website that allows student to connect to theatre officers or a stress hotline, guided meditation, YouTube links to address their feelings as well as suggestions how to overcome anxiety and stress.

Wilkins also included selecting shows this season that carry an inspiring message. 

“We opened with ‘Joseph’ (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and we’re ending with ‘Tuck’ (Everlasting) because it’s something they need right now—beautiful stories that say you don’t have to live forever, you just need to live,” Wilcox said.

The 30-member cast of “Tuck Everlasting” will take the stage at 7 p.m., May 6-8 and again, May 10 in the school’s auditorium, 5715 S. 1300 East. There also will be a noon matinee on May 8. Patrons need to wear masks and will sit socially distanced between families. General admission tickets are $8 and can be purchased online at cwoodtheatre.com.

The cast leads include Jacob Jones as Jessie Tuck; Chloe Painter as Mae Tuck; Zev Katz as Miles Tuck; Hunter Oliphant as Angus Tuck; Ivy Dunbar as Winnie Foster; Brenna Kerby as Mother; Josh Morton, as the Man in the Yellow Suit, and Abbie Tuckness as Nana. Stage managers are Aurora Laird and Anna Boone, lighting by Michael Betancourt, sound by Tia Jensen, mic tech by Elle Sawyer, costume assistance by Kaia Evans and dramaturg is Emorie Palmer.

Their fall show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” was postponed until December, in response to COVID-19, including former Gov. Gary Herbert’s two-week mandatory shutdown of extracurricular activities in November.

“We had a reduced cast of 50 students and a reduced orchestra of 50, but we were still able to give students that opportunity to perform live theatre,” Wilkins said. “That alone was wonderful, but the show was as well.”

Along with Wilkins, the orchestra was directed by Amber Tuckness and costuming was done by Maddiey Howell. 

In March, the thespians performed William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” before they competed at the region contest with “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” They also performed the one-act play for their families and friends in an evening performance.

The performances of the in-person one-act along with the 24 videotaped individual events earned the Colts second place sweepstakes and the opportunity to compete at state in April.

“We did quite well and have a chance to do well at state if our contingency feels comfortable performing in-person. We’ve kept our masks on, followed guidelines to be safe and want to give our students every opportunity we can where they feel safe physically and emotionally,” Wilkins said. “We want this year to be positive for our kids.”