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Cottonwood Heights Journal

‘Turning the Tide:’ Brighton theatre ties into ocean theme to engage audiences

Oct 01, 2022 06:09PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In September, Brighton High thespians could be found in rehearsals for both the Utah’s 46th annual high school Shakespearean competition as well as for “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.”

Set to compete Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 in Cedar City, the students plan to present “The Tempest” as their ensemble piece. Students also will compete in scenes and monologues as well as in dance and in the Tech Olympics.

“At the end of the school year, my kids actually do what we call a Shakespeare Super Bowl where they look at the plays to choose to perform,” Brighton theatre director Makayla Conner said. “I want them to rotate through the different categories of plays, so I let them pick a history, a drama, a comedy, or what we call ‘weirdos.’ They're the plays that don't really fit into a category. Then I give them a list of plays from the category, and this past spring, they all voted on ‘The Tempest’ from that.”

The thespians will return from the festival to present their pieces for the community at 7 p.m., Oct. 3 on the school stage, 2220 E. Bengal Blvd. Admission is free.

After this performance, the Bengals will put on “SpongeBob” at 7 p.m., Dec. 1-3. There also is a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 3. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

“I like it because it has a very good overall message about inclusion and making sure that everyone feels capable of what they can do. I thought that after a hiatus of performance with a whole lot of things being canceled, it sent a nice message of you can still do what you want to do and have all of the competence in the world doing it. It also has an ability to cast any person in any role so that gives us a little bit of flexibility with who we cast,” she said.

Brighton students, as well as Butler Middle, can audition for the roles.

“We’re hoping to help build the theatre programs and give the Butler kids more opportunities to perform because they don't have a musical that they do every year,” Conner said.

The following week, at 7 p.m., Dec. 10, there will be an improv night, where the 10-member team will put on a show of improv games. Traditionally, the theme in December is “flannel night.” A spring show on May 5, 2023 also is planned. Tickets are $4 for the Little Theatre production.

In January, students will attend the Utah Theater Association workshops at Utah Valley University.

On March 2-4, 2023, Brighton will put on “Night Witches,” named after the all-female Soviet Air Forces World War II aviators whose biplanes the Germans said sounded like broomsticks.  The show will begin at 7 p.m. nightly and will have a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets will be $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.

“It’s about this women bomber regiment in Russia that would attack planes at night at bases so the Nazis couldn't sleep, which could lead to their demise,” she said. “Because they were women, their planes weren’t the best; they were built out of just wood and canvas. So, when they got attacked, they would go down very quickly. It’s based off of a true group of women and it’s written by a local playwright, Rachel Bulitz, who has a freshman attending Brighton.”

Conner hopes to set up a time for Bulitz to talk to her students about the play as well as the process of writing it.

“Night Witches” also will double as their region and state one-act competition piece, she said, adding that the school will host the region one-act competition on March 8, 2023. Individual competitions will also take place in March and then state will be April 20-22, 2023 at Viewmont High.

The season will end April 27-29, 2023 with a devised one-act piece.

“The production company will write a play later in the year and then perform it. It's usually a 40-minute play and then, they’ll also perform their individual events from state,” Conner said. “We’ve done it for two years, so this is the third time my students will be writing their original one-act play.”

Previous plays include a murder-mystery farce called “Postmortem” that centered around who killed the town mayor “with kooky characters very much like ‘Clue’ and it ended up being fun” and a more serious play named “Detached,” where a character has a fight with his best friend, but when he tries to apologize, he discovers he can’t because they’re actually characters in a play and the writer wrote them out “so it was really dark, but actually cool because it was a story of grief and they went through those stages in their story.”

Tickets will be limited, with only 80 seats per performance, and will cost $5. This also will serve as a fundraiser for the theatre department.

Students also are involved in the school theatre club, under the leadership of a nine-member council. This year’s kick-off began with a water balloon fight social to match the theme, “Turning the Tide” which tied into this season’s shows, and “that they want to keep making change in waves throughout the community with the shows we do, so ‘Turning the Tide’ means they changed lives with what they're putting out in th