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MVHS in Midst of 'Godspell'

<bt>The Spring Musical at Mount Vernon High School is "Godspell" by Stephen Schwartz. Not built on a traditional plot, the story of "Godspell" teaches love and joy in the hearts of people rather than hate and sadness. It speaks of loving one's neighbor, forgiveness, tolerance and celebration. This contemporary retelling, based on the gospel according to Matthew, is a joyous celebration of music, mime, and comedy. The gospel? In a public school? Director Caren Hearne, in her third year at MVHS, said "just because 'Godspell' is based on the gospel does not mean it is a religious show. It is all about love, joy and friendship." Seniors Greg Maheu as "Jesus" and James Zila as "Judas" are joined by "The Dirty Dozen" and chorus members as they sing and dance their way through this delightful and heartfelt production.

The show opened on Friday, March 28. Remaining performances are Friday April 4 and Saturday April 5. Curtain time for the evening shows is 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinee will be April 6 at 3 p.m.

Ticket prices are $7. Tickets reserved in advance will be assigned priority seating. Group discounts are available by calling the MVHS Theatre Department at 703-619-3172.

THE ANGEL PROGRAM, the MVHS theater boosters' largest annual fundraiser, is in its third successful year. "We have enjoyed excellent support for our program from the Mount Vernon community," said MVHS theater booster president Suzanne Maheu. "Donations this year will be used to purchase a digital piano for the theater department." Burke & Herbert Bank, which has been a supporter of the program for many years, has given an extra donation toward the purchase.

THEIR FINAL BOWS? The Class of 2003 contains a large number of multi-talented, motivated seniors who over the course of their years of attending Mount Vernon High School have had many personal and academic achievements. Among the student body are "rising stars" who have discovered many things about themselves as individuals and team members through their participation in the MVHS drama classes and after-school theater program.

Fourteen seniors are in the cast of "Godspell," many of whom have been involved in theater since their freshman year. In this, what will be their final show at MVHS, there is much sentiment and fond regard for lessons both taught and learned.

"Theater has been my place to be free," said Marrissa Griffin. An overwhelming response of "great times, great friends, and hard work" answered the question of what theater has meant to the students. First-time MVHS performer Sarah Coram said, "It's a good way to be a part of something bigger than yourself."

The seniors made an analogy between sports and theater. "It is a team building experience with great rewards Fortunately, the theater is year round and does not end after a season." Since theater has been so worthwhile for them, when asked if they would recommend it to fellow students, the seniors were in unison saying, "Yes, but only to those who are serious and willing to make the commitment. The theater deserves people who are willing to work. Although it is a lot of fun, you don't need people who will just mess around."

After graduation these students will be heading in many different directions: college, the military, the workforce. Many profess a desire to remain connected to theater in some way.

BEHIND THE SCENES: The actors on stage get the applause, but without the work of the theater technical crew, the show could not go on. Filling the role of stage managers for "Godspell" are two sophomore theater students: Katie Bariola and Emily Witucki.

"These girls are the most incredibly organized stage managers I've ever worked with," said director Caren Hearne. The duties of a stage manager are many, from coordinating props to recording the blocking and choreography for the director and actors to reference as rehearsals progress.

"This is my first time as a stage manager," said Emily Witucki, "and I am learning as I go."

Another facet of technical theater is the set and stage. The set for "Godspell" is simple, consisting mainly of ladders and colorful crates. Sophomore Sarah Jones has undertaken the job of transforming the plain black stage floor into a multicultural mosaic design. "'Godspell' is about different cultures coming together and celebrating their differences and similarities," Sarah said. The floor design reflects that idea and is a focal point of the set. Sarah also created the artwork used on the posters and flyers.

Many others contribute outside of taking the stage. Senior Katy Craig is the marketing coordinator for the MVHS International Thespian Society. She is also serving as the props mistress for the show. Choreography has been orchestrated by Lynn Kirshner, a professional choreographer and teacher from the Woodbridge area. Kevin Sapp, the MVHS choral director, is the music director for the show. Joseph Wallen, the lighting design mentor, is working with sophomore Brittany Stoll.

IN JANUARY, Hearne began inviting cast members to join her in her fitness program. "'Godspell's a very physical show, with lots of dancing and constant movement. The actors need to take care of their bodies and build their stamina and endurance in order to put forth their best performances."

Two days a week after rehearsal, a group of student actors gathers in the black box theater for cardiovascular warmups before heading to the MVHS weight room to continue their workout. The presence of actors in the traditional realm of the athlete has kindled other students' interest in what goes on "on the other side of the school."

This is MVHS's third year participating in the National Capital Area Critics and Awards Program, Cappies for short. Students from participating high schools act as critics to review other schools' plays and musicals under the guidance of faculty members. Sponsored by the Capitol Steps in conjunction with area high school theater instructors, the year-long program culminates in a gala awards ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

Student reviews have been published in the Washington Post and Connection newspapers. The young actors learn from seeing the productions at other high schools and benefit from interacting with actors from other area schools. This year's critics from MVHS include lead critic Greg Maheu and team members Caitlin Fraedrich, Kristina Mascelli, Daniella Jagemann and Karen Cordova.

MVHS SOPHOMORE Whitney Zangarine recently participated in the English Speaking Union's National Shakespeare Competition at the Folger Theater in Washington, D.C.

The students in the Theatre II and IB Theatre classes at MVHS competed amongst themselves to be the MVHS representative to attend. Whitney gathered the most votes for her performance from her fellow students, with sophomores Jordan Weerasinghe and Emily Witucki placing second and third. Students from 40 high schools in the Washington Metro area gathered at the Folger to present monologues and sonnets written by The Bard.

Following the morning competition, Whitney was one of 10 students to move on to the evening round. The participants also experienced a question and answer session with actors from the Folger.