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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest theatre students relate to upcoming performance, ‘Sunday in the Park with George’

Jan 08, 2019 01:21PM ● By Julie Slama

Seniors Ellie Otis and Ashley Horiuchi hold up a copy of George Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” the inspiration for their January performance of “Sunday in the Park with George.” (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Through “Sunday in the Park with George,” Hillcrest High’s 33-member production company is doing more than just putting on a show, they’re discovering why they create art and its importance in their lives.

“The show deals with creating art, which is what we do all the time,” said senior Jack Cobabe, Hillcrest High theatre president, who plays the museum curator. “Through the show, we learn how theater can change people and ourselves.”

“Sunday in the Park with George,” shows at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24 through Saturday, Jan. 26 in the school’s Little Theatre, 7350 S. 900 East. Tickets may be purchased online at Before the musical, there will be a free preshow talk by the upstairs theater beginning at 6:15 p.m. With construction at Hillcrest, parking is available on the north side of the school as well as the southwest corner (driver’s education lot).

The show features senior Quinton McFarland as George and senior Aleisha Meier as Dot. Junior Aliyah Kaluza-Walkes is stage manager and senior Kaden Pigsely is the set designer.

“Sunday in the Park with George” is a musical written by Stephen Sondheim, who Hillcrest High director Josh Long describes as the “Shakespeare of musical theater.” Although the Broadway production opened in 1984, Long said he only knows of one U.S. high school who has performed it.

“I’ve been scared of it because it is so beautiful and powerful and very few high school kids are able to pull it off,” he said. “The music, the acting is mature and difficult. I had alumni ask me why I hadn’t had students do it if it was my favorite musical. When I realized the answer was ‘it’s hard,’ I knew then, we needed to do it. Five years ago, I promised myself if I’d stopping putting limits on the kids. I realized if I thought something was too hard to do, we’d do it.”

The show is inspired by French painter George Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” It involves George, who is a fictionalized version of Seurat, immersing himself in his painting and learning about himself, his art and how he defines himself, Long said. The plot is set both in the 1880s and the 1980s.

“The whole set is the painting,” said Hillcrest stage crew director Giselle Gremmert, who was named teacher of the year by the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers. “We are building that painting as our set, taking a 2D painting and creating it into a 3D set is challenging as we try to make it look realistic and keep perspective.”

The costumes, which seniors Ashley Horiuchi and Kami Loerstcher are overseeing will be reflective of the painting.

“(Almost) all the characters are in the painting, so we are looking at that for our ideas,” Horiuchi said.

Horiuchi, who is playing the character Mrs., said that students in the show can relate to why George appreciates art.

“People say that in high school, artists are the purest as we aren’t driven by money or power,” she said. “We create art and appreciate why we are doing so. There’s a line from the show, ‘Anything you do, let it come from you. Then it will be new. Give us more to see,’ which parallels our lives.”

That line, “let it come from you,” also has become the theme for Hillcrest theater students this year.

Classmate and senior Ellie Otis, who plays George’s mom, said she has learned communication skills through theater.

“I’m a better human being and can understand how to communicate and understand others better,” she said, adding that it has helped her understand there is more subtext than what is verbally said.  

Long said through the production, George’s relationship with Dot, who he’s painting, is examined.

“To him, it’s a blur between art and life and what is actually happening or what is in his head,” he said. “With his relationship with his fiancé, he is painting a picture of her and he feels it is his love to her, but she doesn’t get it and wishes he was present and would be sharing more of himself with her. It gives us so many levels of insight and humanity and artistry. Students are able to relate as they understand being immersed in their art. It’s not just being here at rehearsal, but it’s doing what they love and who they are and it’s a chance for their families and the community to learn and appreciate that.”

McFarland, who said he repeatedly refreshed his device to make sure he saw the cast list posted online correctly before sharing the news of playing George with his mother, said that the show has been a positive learning experience.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I am an artist,” he said, adding that he’d like to study theater in New York City. “I’ve also learned about work ethic, keeping on pace, memorizing lines and rehearsing songs. ‘Sunday at the Park with George’ will tell the audience something about themselves they didn’t know, if they were to let themselves be more vulnerable and show their inner-humanity.”

Otis said that there is a line that she has appreciated with the show.

“Work is what you do for others, Liebchen,” she quoted. “Art is what you do for yourself.”