When members of Durango High School’s Troupe 1096 take the stage May 6, it will be their first live performance since the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down a little over a year ago. It will also be their last production of the year, and they’re going out with a bang, staging “Carrie: The Musical.”
The show, which features music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, is based on the 1974 novel by Stephen King.
It’s the story of Carrie White, a high schooler who has been bullied her entire life – both by her classmates and her overbearingly religious mother. As the bullying reaches a fever pitch, Carrie discovers she has telekinetic abilities (she can move things just by thinking about it). Everything comes to an awful conclusion when she’s asked to the prom ... if you don’t know the rest, I’m not going to ruin it for you.
Ben Mattson, director of Troupe 1096, said the choice to stage “Carrie” was the choice of the troupe members.
“Before the pandemic hit last year, we had picked the entire season that included ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ which was our big musical; and then it was still a little up in the air, but we were looking at ‘Noises Off’ or some sort of comedy like that ... and then the upperclassmen wanted to do ‘Carrie,’ which I was excited about as well,” he said. “So when it looked like we were able to do an onstage production, that was the one that seemed within our means. It was to keep that upperclassmen show.”
Being able to rehearse and stage a live production after the year we’ve had is no easy feat: Safety protocols and requirements have limited the amount of time students can rehearse together for 90 minutes, masks must be worn at all times and social distancing is a must. The performances themselves, which run May 6 to 8 and May 13 to 15, have an audience seating capacity of 30%, and all audience members are required to wear masks and social distance.
Mattson said that while at first, the mask requirement was a concern, it actually worked to the show’s benefit.
“All of the students are masked during the performance when they’re on stage. And this has been done all around the country, masked performances. I was a little bit worried about that, and talking to some of my friends, a friend of mine said, because it is set in a modern world, it doesn’t need a lot of updating, it just – there are cellphones, there are modern things in the script – and my friend said rather than putting the pandemic on to ‘Carrie,’ just let the show exist in the modern world,” he said. “It exists in a world where there is a pandemic going. And it also seemed to resonate and kind of pull out the themes of this girl who is the most powerless person on stage, becoming the most powerful person in the room, destructively so, without touching anyone. Her telekinesis becomes much more interesting in a world where we can’t touch each other.”
Junior Abbie Albert plays Carrie in the May 6, 8 and 14 performances. She shares the role with Samme Newcomer, who puts on the crown May 7, 13 and 15. Albert said while the role is tough, she was able to pull in her own life experiences to make Carrie an authentic character.
“Playing Carrie does have its challenges, especially in trying to convey her telekinetic powers in a realistic way,” she said. “But I can use things from my own life, such as my struggles with my own insecurities, and put those into portraying a more genuine Carrie that I feel people can relate to.”
For Maya Mouret, also a junior, and for this production, assistant director and an actor, Carrie’s story wasn’t entirely new to her.
“I had never read the book, but I knew the whole story of ‘Carrie,’ and as soon as that was a possibility for a show, I watched the musical three times,” she said, adding that it’s good to return to the theater. “It’s definitely been nice coming back from quarantine and not having theater all year and then coming back to a show as cool as this one.”
And while Troupe 1096 has accomplished much during the pandemic – including a cool radio version of “Pontypool” for Halloween and, most recently, “1984,” it’s being back on stage in front of an audience that has everyone excited, Mattson said.
“We’ve done some really cool things in a virtual landscape with theater; really creative things that we never would have done outside of this environment,” he said. “But, theater lives and breathes on stage and live. And I think we all just feel at home again. It’s pretty exciting.”