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The City Journals

It’s a wrap—almost—as Murray High thespians put on final spring shows

May 03, 2021 12:55PM ● By Julie Slama

In March, Murray High students put on Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” (Photo courtesy of Larah Lewis)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Simplified theatre was the answer to what has become “a pretty good year” to the Murray High theatre teacher.

Murray High’s theatre season started like no other, competing in the 44th annual high school Shakespeare festival in the fall virtually since COVID-19 health and safety guidelines wouldn’t allow them to appear on the stages in Cedar City.

Then, students rehearsed their fall musical “Little Women” despite school closing on account of high number of students exposed to COVID-19. As they were to take the stage, former Gov. Gary Herbert put a two-week shutdown on extracurricular activities moving the mid-November musical to early December.

“It was such a weird experience with so many stops and starts,” theatre teacher Will Saxton said. “We had to use some understudies for some leads who were exposed (to COVID-19) and added a matinee to allow more understudies to perform. It was just a miracle it happened after last spring’s school closure. It was an emotional experience for sure. It felt magical to perform live theatre after so many roadblocks and obstacles—and it a huge relief.”

“Little Women” was directed by substitute Amy Garrard as Saxton was recovering from cancer during rehearsals. Now in remission, he said he has “gone full strength” with the whirlwind year.

It ends this spring, as the thespians will perform William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” in the round at 7 p.m., May 5-7 in their Little Theatre, 5440 S. State St. Tickets will be available at showtix4u.com/events/mhsasyoulikeit and cost $5 in person or $3 for livestream. In-person seating will be limited.

“It will be a fun, simple show to do in a chaotic year,” Saxton said. “We have the right cast and can still put it on if we do have a shutdown (because of the COVID-19 pandemic).”

There also will be one-act pieces put on at 7 p.m., May 20-21 in the Little Theatre, directed by Theatre 3 students. Ticket prices are $3 for in-person, limited seating or $2 for livestream.

Those will happen after the theatre team competes at state, slated for mid-April. 

At region, Murray High students excelled in their individual events, including Hillcrest Junior High ninth-grader Savannah Horner’s pantomime, “Tennis Match,” and qualified 14 scenes for state.

“We collaborated with Hillcrest theatre teacher Jessica Pearce so about half of our individual events were Hillcrest students,” Saxton said.

Murray High hosted the one acts on March 24, and Theatre 3 students performed their own written piece, “The Museum of Retrospect,” which flashed back to the year 2020. It helped the Spartans to snag the third place Sweepstakes trophy.

“The piece is about COVID, Black Lives Matter, Australian bush fire, the earthquake in Magna and several other issues with some music, including some original musical pieces. The students got really creative,” Saxton said.

Not only did their piece qualify for state, but two seniors received special awards: Sophia Weaver for best writer for the section, “BLM” in the piece and Seth Stone, for best composition, “Intro-Reverting,” where he described growing up as an introvert, but coming out of his shell in high school only to return to feeling like an introvert during COVID-19.

“Sophia’s writing was very impactful and very well done,” Saxton said. “As one of a few African Americans participating in Murray High School’s theatre, she had a unique perspective of what was happening.”

Weaver also was an assistant director of their March production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and filled in for the role of the Reverend after a student was quarantined.

“I wanted a simple play to stage that was well known and could give the students a challenge. I knew if we were shutdown, we’d be able to translate this and still perform, but we didn’t and the show sold out for every performance. It was a great production and very fun,” Saxton said. 

In mid-January, Murray students also simplified their production, just using lighting and projection, for their show, “The Empty Broadway Revue.”

“It made it a simple, but beautiful production,” Saxton said. “It ended up being more of normal year than I originally thought.”