LITTLE CHUTE, Wis. (WFRV) – Students at the Little Chute High School brought Sister Act to life for three days this November. Even though the show is over, the director says it was great having people back on stage.
Playbill’s synopsis of Sister Act explains how the show follows a disco singer, Deloris Van Cartier, who is placed under protective custody in a dying convent. In the show, her unique brand of funk comes face-to-face with the traditions of the church.
Local 5 was able to meet up with a cast member and the director of the show before their last performance to pick their brain on how this year went.
The actress who played Deloris, Nadia Dorsey, says auditioning for the show was an easy decision.
“Theater has always been so important to me and when I heard we were doing Sister Act, I just – the directors chose it. It was just perfect for our cast. Every part was picked perfectly. Everyone really just has a spot in this show and everyone feels so loved,” she explained. “The message of our show is just – it’s such a beautiful thing – of having love and holding that within your group of people. And that’s what this is for us, the love within our theater group.”
The director, Dan Van Eperen, says it was fantastic having everyone in the auditorium again. “The last couple years, obviously, have been hard for a lot of people in the theater industry. And to give these kids an opportunity to experience live theater and get that emotion of the crowd. That’s been a huge thing for our community. To be able to bring that back following the pandemic.”
High school students performed the show on Nov. 11-13 at the school on Freedom Road. The production did not have any pandemic protocols in place, but the director says they had a few contingency plans.
“From a planning standpoint, like much of the world, you can’t really tell what it’s going to look like in a few months. So last year we did a movie and we had a lot of challenges involved with things like masking and things like people having to leave at various parts. For this show, we did do a lot of planning with contingencies in place. That was the biggest obstacle,” Eperen explained. “We’ve been so fortunate, though. I would say, in the fact that we haven’t had any experiences with large-scale quarantines or anything like that that has pulled people away as we came finally to a show. We’ve been able to do it. Luckily, the state of the world is such that we didn’t get shut down at the last second or anything like that so. We had a lot of planning for obstacles that luckily sort of went unused.”
“We have been really fortunate to be able to do our musical, do everything with – with being able to do it freely without much, I would say, restriction,” agreed Dorsey. “We’ve been able to really be able to hone in on our craft. It’s just really nice to do that for the first time in a really long time.”
“We’ve had a handful of shows cancel since 2020. We were actually were about a week away from opening a middle school performance when everything got shut down and so one of the things I didn’t realize was just how close – or just the fact that, a lot of our young kids have never experienced a live audience before,” explained Eperen. “And I kind of took that for granted and then seeing opening night after the show how they felt, getting that feedback from the audience and just the high of being in front of a live audience. That was truly special for me, as somebody that’s been involved in theater my whole life.”
Eperen also tells Local 5 he thinks the best part of having this production is being able to welcome the community back.
“That’s been a big thing for us – is just to be able to open [the auditorium] back up and say ‘Hey, please come and join us – please just be entertained.’ Times are hard for a lot of people – let’s suspend our issues for a few hours and just get lost in the theater,” said Eperen. “And that’s why all of us are involved in theater – is just that suspension of the world around us for a few hours just to be entertained. And these kids just have been amazing in their ability to bring energy into the community in that way.”
Throughout the season, cast members even created a unique activity to help people bond.
“We go out to eat every Thursday afterwards and it’s just really nice to be able to sit and talk to the whole cast because you don’t always interact with all of them during rehearsal,” explained Dorsey. “So it’s really nice to get to know every one of them at that point.”
The school is participating in the Fox Cities Performing Art Center’s (PAC) Center Stage program this year as well. Theater programs are able to get their shows critiqued by a team that gives feedback to directors and students leading up to the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Showcase event in May.
Dorsey says the experience of being in the program is amazing. “It really makes you do your best each night because you know that, like, you’ve got a lot at stake,” she explained. “And it’s really exciting to be a part of it because it showcases our group and really makes all of us want – we just really want to be there on the stage in the spring so we’re all really excited for it.”
“And as someone who grew up in this area and was involved in theater as a high schooler, I am extremely jealous that these students have this opportunity that I did not have,” added Eperen. “Not just to get judged but the Center puts on a lot of great educational programs. And it’s really – the way that the outreach to the kids has kind of expanded through the PAC has been unbelievable. So I’m extraordinarily jealous of them.”
As for their next production? Eperen tells Local 5 Little Chute High School will start to get ready for their winter play, Romeo and Juliet, within the next couple of weeks.