Fatima Drama Club overcomes COVID-19 issues with aid of technology to perform spring play

By Edward Gehlert
Posted 4/7/21

The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed down the Fatima Drama Club’s presentation of this year’s spring play but rehearsals continued thanks to technology and cast dedication.

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Fatima Drama Club overcomes COVID-19 issues with aid of technology to perform spring play

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The COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed down the Fatima Drama Club’s presentation of this year’s spring play but rehearsals continued thanks to technology and cast dedication.
Originally scheduled for Feb. 28, the production of “Murder’s in the Heir!” by Billy St. John has faced difficulties from both the pandemic and weather. In both cases, the ability of students and faculty to meet remotely was key in preparing for opening night.
“Fortunately, we were able to do in-person auditions, but then we hit virtual where we had to do virtual practices to start with, and then the week before the play we went virtual for snow days,” said play co-sponsor Crystal Miller. “Then they had to get their entrance cues, they had to be in and out, have props and we had nothing.”
After these difficulties, it was decided to postpone the play for the first time. When students did return to school, cast members were able to have one week of practices before they were exposed to COVID-19 during their first dress rehearsal, forcing them all to quarantine.
“It was really rough on them. They cried a lot, we all did,” said Miller. “Naturally they put a lot of work in. It was tough to start with. Fortunately, everyone has reasonably capable internet that we were all able to do online practice.”
Even though the cast was able to rehearse using the app Google Meet, they were not able to get in as many practices as they normally would. The group has had 15 in-person rehearsals when 30 is the usual amount.
The spring sports season has also affected rehearsals and the timing of the production.
“We usually do the play on Feb. 28, because that means we don't have to worry about spring sports,” said Miller. “Well, I have four kids in track. They go to track on days we don't have play practice; they go to track on some days we do have practice, depending on if they have a meet coming up. We also always have to work around the basketball schedule since we’re in the gym. We spent about 80 percent of our practices battling basketball, which is louder and we can't use microphones while they are practicing.”
The play was performed on April 1 in front of a live audience and was simultaneously broadcasted on the Fatima R-3 Facebook page so out-of-town family and friends could watch. The decision was made to hold the performance on Thursday because most of the cast and crew have jobs that they work on the weekends.
Almost every character in this hilarious mystery has the weapon, opportunity, and motive to commit the unseen murder. And it’s up to the audience to decide who actually did it.
Each of the heirs to the tyrannical billionaire Simon Starkweather has the means and the motive to do away with him. Starkweather gathers his family and employees to announce the contents of his will. His lawyer, Lois van Zandt, reveals that he has bequeathed vast fortunes to his befuddled niece Fiona, her playboy son Jordan, his great-niece Paula (a Southern belle), and his grandson Simon III, as well as to his many servants. Then Lois delivers the bombshell.
Within hours, this will becomes invalid. Of course, the rejected heirs are not pleased, so it’s not surprising when they roam the old mansion carrying such items as an ax, a gun, and poison. Predictably, the lights go out, and Simon is discovered murdered.
“Murder’s in the Heir!” is an audience-participation murder mystery where the ending is determined by the use of secret ballots that are gathered during intermission.
Here’s the cast list:
* Jacob Rolwes — Simon Starkweather & Simon Starkweather III: tyrannical billionaire, later a college student;
* Madeline Carwile — Fiona Starkweather: befuddled niece by marriage;
* Reagen Kliethermes— Jordan Starkweather: playgirl, great-niece;
* Taylor Kremer — Paula Thompson: great-niece, Southern belle;
* Cora Adams — Bensonhurst: butler;
* Heidi Struemph — Mrs. Trent: the dour housekeeper;
* Taylor Schwartze — Minerva Walker: temperamental cook;
* Polly LePage — Nancy Pollard: shy maid;
* Isaac Falter — Rufus: surly handyman;
* Jessica Steinman — Lois Van Zandt: business-like lawyer;
* Bailey Kirsch — Miss Withers: stern nurse;
* Nadine Schmitz — Kathy Collins: self-assured secretary;
* Natalie Samson — Michelle Davis: smart, tough private detective.

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