Teachers don’t usually make house calls, but Friday afternoon, Lewis and Clark High School drama director Greg Pschirrer and associate director Suzanne Maguire made approximately 25 of them.
The pair delivered cast/crew T-shirts to students who would have been celebrating the closing weekend of “Something Rotten!” if not for the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We were committed to having some way of showcasing the hard work our kids did,” said Maguire.
The kids weren’t the only ones who worked hard. The Tiger Drama directors had been working for three years to secure the rights to perform “Something Rotten!” The musical comedy is a hilarious mashup of 16th-century Shakespeare and 21st-century Broadway, and tells the story of two brothers who set out to write the world’s first musical.
“We learned last summer that we were the first theater in all of Washington state to secure the rights for the show,” Maguire said.
That honor followed on the heels of another.
The Educational Theatre Association recognizes excellence in school theater programs. Last year Lewis and Clark High School was one of only four schools in the country to receive the association’s Outstanding School Award.
A pandemic wasn’t the only challenge this LC production has faced.
“We had to shuffle our entire season around when we got the news we could do ‘Something Rotten!’ ” Pschirrer said. “Our kids were performing ‘Shrek’ while rehearsing ‘Something Rotten!’ and then we had spring break.”
When Tiger Drama finally reconvened, Pschirrer was amazed by what his students had maintained.
“I was terrified by what I’d find, but it was even better then when we’d left it,” he said. “It was really impressive, and we were hopeful we could still open on time.”
Those hopes were dashed when schools were closed for the rest of the year.
“A lot of our kids are feeling isolated and alone,” Pschirrer said.
That’s what spawned the T-shirt delivery surprise. The drama directors drove in separate cars, and traveled some 60 miles to personally deliver the mementos – and the shirts had a surprise twist, too.
“We worked with Momentum Ink to redesign the back of the shirts to include the names of the entire cast and crew, instead of just the Tiger Drama logo,” Maguire said. “We’ve never done that before.”
They kept parents in the loop about the surprise to ensure the kids were home and out of bed when the doorbell rang.
When Jordan Santiago heard familiar music coming up his driveway, he knew something was up.
Maguire blasted tunes from “Something Rotten!” from a portable speaker as they approached each student’s house.
“It was so fun to see them, but I was sad I couldn’t hug them,” said Santiago, a senior, who plays Nigel Bottom, one of the two male leads. “Pschirrer and Maguire are really special people. They’re more than teachers and directors, they’re mentors as well.”
Gunnar Rorholm knew something was up when he looked out the window and saw a photographer crossing the street in front of his house.
“I went to the door and saw Pschirrer and Maguire,” the senior said. “It was really nice to see them together and not on a ZOOM call – and the shirt is great!”
Rorholm said he was ecstatic just to audition for the show, and thrilled when he landed the lead role of Nick Bottom.
“Their visit was really meaningful for my mom and me, especially since my dad is deployed,” said Rorholm, whose father is on an 11-month deployment with the Naval Reserve.
The show might still go on.
Tiger drama directors have tentatively booked performances for the end of July, but they won’t know if that’s possible until June.
“We’re postponed, but hopeful,” Pschirrer said.
If they’re unable to stage live performances, they’re hoping to digitally record a couple of the numbers.
“It’s heartbreaking to look at the work these kids have put in, just to see it evaporate before anyone can see it,” said Pschirrer. “It’s really painful.”
Visiting their students bolstered the spirits of the instructors, as well as their students.
“It was a little bit selfish for us, so we could see them,” Maguire said. “But kids need these little inoculations against despair.”
“The best part was seeing the kids’ faces light up,” he said. “It was a visual way to say, ‘Thank you,’ to show them they’re important, and that they matter.”
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