JHS theater back in full swing after COVID-19 setbacks

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

Christine Stephenson/The Herald
Jasper High School Performing Arts students rehearse their show, "Something Rotten!" Wednesday evening in the JHS auditorium. Tickets for the show on Saturday and Sunday are still available.

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — Theater Director Tina Luebbehusen sits at her desk in her classroom Wednesday, soaking up the five minutes of peace between school and rehearsal. She needs this, because the rest of the evening is sure to be chaos.

As soon as she walks into the Jasper High School auditorium, she's bombarded with questions. Short sleeves or long sleeves? Where are the skirts? When is mic check?

Meanwhile, students are flying around, trying on costumes, doing vocal warmups and cramming in snacks and candy before three hours of rehearsal. This was the last day before the four-day stretch of performances began.

The Jasper High School Performing Arts students are performing their show, “Something Rotten!” through Sunday afternoon at the JHS auditorium.

The show is a musical about two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are trying to save their failing theater troupe by performing the first-ever musical. The musical about how to make a musical is a mix of historical fiction and comedy, with songs about eggs and the Black Death to witty one-liners from heartthrob William Shakespeare, who performs for a crowd of screaming fans while wearing sunglasses and leather pants. It’s set in the 1590s, but nearly every scene has modern references, jokes for everyone and nods to other iconic musicals such as Rent, Annie and Little Shop of Horrors.

Christine Stephenson/The Herald
Kaitlyn Fromme, left, Isaiah Moss and Jordan Schweikarth finish their makeup before Wednesday rehearsal. The students typically only have about 20 minutes between when school ends and when mic check for rehearsal begins.

This year is a huge step up compared to last year, when audiences were limited as a COVID-19 precaution. One might think performing in front of a small crowd would be better because it’s less nerve wracking, but that’s not the case with these students, Luebbehusen said.

“It’s hard to perform without an audience because there’s no one to laugh or anything, no one to interact with,” she said. “We only had friends and family last year, but we’re used to sellout crowds.”

Senior Reggie Matute, who plays Nick Bottom, felt the same way. For him, the joy of theater is getting to watch people smile or laugh, he said.

“Having no one in the audience last year kind of made me want to give up,” he said. “I still did it anyway, and it was great, but knowing that there’ll be more people in the audience this year is getting me excited.”

Matute’s passion has been in theater since he was in middle school after he saw a JHS performance of “Elf.” He remembers former student Kyle Hollinden playing the role of Buddy and was inspired, he said.

The next year, he performed in a middle school production of “The Lion King” and never looked back.

“That was whenever I really started to feel passionate about it,” he said. “I did it every year since, I did voice lessons and I’ve just really loved it.”

Matute hopes to pursue theater after high school, too, when he hopefully attends IUPUI next fall.

Junior Leo Rasche, who plays Nigel Bottom, said he also wants to pursue theater in his adult life. He wants to major in theater and education and one day become a director.

“For me, theater is, like, literally my passion,” he said. “I love theater so much, and I want to make a living off it. It just makes me so happy.”

Although Matute and Rasche, the show’s two main characters, have the most time on stage, they aren’t the only ones with a true interest in theater. All of the students, from the cast to the crew, have worked to make the performance the best it can be, Luebbehusen said.

“It’s going to be really good,” she said. “I can’t wait to see their hard work pay off.”

Tickets are still available at ticketor.com/jhsperformingarts. The remaining shows are at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the JHS auditorium.