On the sixth, seventh, and eighth of November in 2020, The McNicholas Theater Department will be performing the play Ten Red Kings by Mark Rigney.
Ten Red Kings is a contemporary play that focuses on Margot Cates, a teenager who plays video games obsessively as a coping mechanism for losing her sister, Courtney. Her mother, growing concerned for her well-being, sends her to a camp designated for “gaming addicts,” where she is stripped away from all aspects of technology and forced to change her habit of compulsive gaming. She meets other campers at camp, and the story revolves around their struggles to come to terms with themselves and reality. Margot is played by junior Shannon Whitely.
“I do remember having a long talk with a friend who had worked as a counselor at a ‘wilderness trek’ camp, where ‘troubled’ youth were set on a long march––fifteen miles or more a day––for weeks at a time, and I was interested in that level of deprivation, in alternative notions of rehabilitation,” Rigney said about what inspired him to write the play.
“It will be exceptionally difficult to perform any play not designed for virtual performance in a virtual setting. Ten Red Kings will be no exception,” Rigney said, speaking about if the play at McNicholas ends up going online. “Theater is, above all else, the art of collaboration.”
Rigney said that his career as a playwright has ground to “a screeching halt” due to social distancing policies and the decrease in performances over the past eight months.
“Theater as we knew it before has largely ceased to exist,” he said.
Teresa De Zarn, McNick’s theater teacher and director of the upcoming fall play, also spoke on the subject of performing during COVID-19.
“It’s going to be horrible,” she said, referring to how difficult it would be to perform Ten Red Kings while still maintaining proper social distancing guidelines. “Because there are many scenes where everyone’s onstage at the same time.” However, she plans on continuing with the show, even if it must be in a virtual format.
“We will rehearse online if we have to,” De Zarn said. Throughout the rehearsals and shows, precautionary measures will be put into place regarding COVID-19. Audience members will be required to wear masks, and families will sit six feet apart.
“Right now… it’s going to go online anyway,” De Zarn added. Her plan is to hold the show live with a minimal audience while also filming it and uploading it to YouTube. In fact, one of the prime reasons the show was chosen to be performed at McNick was because there was an option to perform it virtually.
“A lot of the plays you can’t even do… because you can’t do them virtually,” she said. De Zarn also had other reasons for choosing the play. The theater department was instructed to have a minimal set, and Ten Red Kings specifically called for very little set. Another reason behind the selection was the intelligent writing and developed characters in the show. De Zarn is very opposed to “childish writing.”
“Teenagers are a little bit more sophisticated and deserve to work on more sophisticated material,” she said. De Zarn hopes that even though the play may be messy at times because of COVID-19, it will give students the ability to keep performing and getting the experience they need. “We don’t want theater to die,” she said.
Sophomore Julia Hart, who plays the role of a troll and a zombie, had a similarly positive outlook on the performance. “It should be exciting how we’re going to approach it, and I think it’s going to be good for us to like try new things.”
“Rehearsals this year have been very different from rehearsals before,” senior Gavin Duffy said. He is playing the role of Keith. “It’s definitely harder with masks because it makes it harder to talk clearer and annunciate … It’s definitely a very different energy, but I still think it’ll be a really good show.”
Junior Arden Jakubovic is the stage manager for the show. “I think it’s good that we’re still getting back into old things we used to do,” she said. “We’re all being careful, we’re all being safe, so I’m really excited about it.”