Thespians from Superior High School are inviting the community to take an active role in this year’s spring theater production. Instead of performing a traditional stage musical, the students are filming a "choose-your-own-adventure"'-style movie, “Saturday Ghost Club.”
The SHS original, written by Luke Moravec, of Duluth, involves adventure, mystery and a possible ghost sighting. A musical number even lies in wait down one of roughly 40 possible plot paths.
Director Amber Gilbert, English and theater teacher at SHS, said the students helped steer the theme and direction of the piece. They requested an adventure story with no romance at their original brainstorming session with Moravec. Once a rough draft was ready, they suggested additional small changes during a read through.
The students have been filming sections of the piece since March 27, both over Zoom and on location, with local videographer Andrew Kirov. Viewers will recognize familiar sites on screen, from the halls of SHS to Old Main Park in Duluth. On Thursday, April 15, the cast filmed some spooky footage on the old soccer fields along North 28th Street in Superior.
About 15 actors and five student crew members are participating in the production. Unlike a stage performance that runs from beginning to end, the video scenes are often shot out of order. Each scene is repeated a number of times to film it from different angles. And as a "choose-your-own-adventure" film, the students have to find what motivates their character to make each of the possible choices.
They're not just filming, they're filming during a pandemic. Gilbert's keeping the students distanced and masked, with masks coming off only when they're in frame and far apart. That's made it harder for the actors to play off each other's performances.
Senior Thomas Chicka has been involved in SHS theater for four years, playing roles such as Friedrich in “The Sound of Music” and the rabbit in “Shrek.”
“I was definitely apprehensive in the beginning how things would work out because I’ve never done stage performing before,” said Chicka, who plays Jace.
It’s gone better than he expected, and is something unique he can put on his resume.
“I’m definitely glad that we did something this year. It’s nice to have something, to have a senior production,” Chicka said.
They’re tackling it a chunk at a time instead of all at once, but when it comes time to do the scene, it has to be done right. It’s the last time they’ll say those lines, because there will be no second show. And instead of weeks of rehearsal leading up to a final performance, they started filming much earlier to have the video done on time.
“This one’s a lot of fun,” said Adelaide Poskozim, a junior who plays the role of Chase. “There’s a lot less pressure to get it down right away.”
Her sister had the opposite reaction.
“It’s kind of more tense, because we have less time than we’re used to,” said freshman Lilllian Poskozim, who plays Charlie.
Everyday noises have been one of the biggest hurdles Kirov and SHS junior Ryan LeFor, who is helping with filming, have encountered. During a recent video shoot in the woods near the school, they were interrupted by baseball games, soccer practice, the sound of a train, a siren and three small planes. Thursday brought its own noise challenges, including frogs, crows, planes, loud vehicles and music being played by a group of teens in the nearby field.
Gilbert said the new video format has made student actors focus on facial expressions and small gestures, instead of the broad movement used on stage.
“We can play around with small moments more,” she said. “I definitely think that this is something I would maybe like to include every couple of years,” not as a production but as a winter project.
As of Thursday, the cast and crew had amassed about three and a half hours of video, which will be winnowed down into the final project. Editing was slated to begin over the weekend.
The final product will be aired before a small audience in early May, Gilbert said. It will most likely be a similar process to sporting events, with each member of the cast and crew able to give out up to four tickets. DVDs of the video will also be available for purchase. The drama group is self-funding, with all proceeds earmarked for future productions.
Visit onthestage.com/superior-high-school-theatre for more information on the DVD release.