“The Sparrow” takes flight

Coal City High School drama students to stage fall play
Ann Gill

When Sydney Carlos takes the stage this weekend for Coal City High School's fall play it will be her first and her last.
Up until this school year, Carlos has only taken the stage for the school's musical productions, but for her senior year she tried out for something a bit different and landed a lead role in the show about a young woman with extraordinary powers.
“The Sparrow,” by playwrights Chris Matthews, Jake Minton and Nathan Allen, tells the story of Emily Book, the sole survivor of a school bus accident who after 10 years away returns to the small town of Spring Farm, Illinois to complete her studies and graduate.
Sophomore Addey Connor will play the role of Emily in Coal City High School's production and Carlos, a senior, assumes the role of Jenny McGrath, Spring Farm's student body president and head cheerleader.
Although not a member of the cheer team or president of her class, Carlos said she relates to her character in that they are both high school students who are focused on their academics.
The school's biology instructor Mr. Dan Christopher, played by senior Gavyn Williams, introduces Emily to Jenny, and the two form a friendship — but the bonds of that are tested as the story unfolds.
As Carlos explains, all is going well until Jenny realizes Emily is starting to take her place.
“So (Jenny) goes through all the normal teenage life stuff, but on a more extreme level,” Carlos said.
Before stepping onto the stage, Carlos channels her character by thinking about the daily struggles of being a high school student, as well as what it would be like to be a peppy cheerleader. When it comes time for the curtain to go up on the second act, she turns her focus on what it would be like to be betrayed by friends and then she turns it up about 10 times to get the role of Jenny across to the audience.
Fellow senior Jesse McCants is participating in his fourth and final play as a high schooler, and like Carlos he spends his pre-show time getting into character, and he has two very opposite roles in the show.
McCants starts and ends the production as the town's long serving sheriff. In the middle he takes a front row seat as the announcer for the school's Homecoming basketball game. He likes his role as sheriff the best.
“He's more fun, more versatile to play and I can really get into it,” said McCants, who spends about 60 minutes pre-show talking and acting like the sheriff.
This year's fall production is unlike any other he's appeared in.
“This show is very interesting and it's a 180 from anything I've done. It's been fun to really get into your emotions with the characters,” McCants said.
Both McCants and Carlos say they've enjoyed the experience and as seniors they've taken a leadership role in the cast. With less than 72 hours before the opening night performance, they sat together among their fellow cast mates encouraging each one to portray their character to the best of their ability.
McCants enjoys being on stage, and while he's been in his share of musicals he prefers plays.
“You get more emotion out of it, because you are not stopping for dancing and singing,” he said.
The show is directed by theater instructor Jack Micetich. It’s his first time putting on the school's play.  For the past eight years he's produced and directed the middle and high school musicals, earning multiple awards and nominations for the spring shows, including a nod as best director.
“It's been an enjoyable experience, something different and exciting,” Micetich said. “The students are invested in the show and I believe that is what audiences will see when the students take the stage this weekend,” the director added.
“It's been different with the director change, but he did a really good job with making it come together how he did,” McCants said.
Micetich has said one of the most difficult parts of directing the show was casting. It took two rounds of call backs before a final decision was made on who would appear in the lead roles.
If he could have picked any other role to play, McCants said he would have enjoyed taking the stage as Coach Gerald Adams, but as much fun as that role would have been, he said Micetich made the right call by casting sophomore Riley Nevin.
“I wouldn't pull it off as much as Nevin does, the coach is so out there and the way he pulls it off is so much fun to watch,” McCants said.
Both students say “The Sparrow” is a show that shouldn't be missed.
“Everyone should come see the show. It's very interesting, and although it has magic and crazy stuff that wouldn't normally happen it does tell a deep and realistic story of what people go through in life. A lot of emotions show throughout the play that people can relate to. It tells a nice story about how people can change and what can happen when new things come into your life,” Carlos said.
McCants agrees there is a lot of emotion that comes through in the story especially with characters like Emily, Jenny, Mr. Christopher and the McGuckins, who take Emily in upon her return to Spring Farm.
“People should see this show, it handles a lot of themes — depression, loss, not fitting in and standing out — that are not handled usually within the plays and shows we've done before. It shows a lot of raw emotions, we're putting ourselves out there for the entertainment and it's going to be amazing,” McCants said.    
The play includes its share of special effects, a little song and dance number and an ending that is certain to surprise audiences.
“My favorite part is the very last scene which I don't want to spoil, but it's the point in the show that shows just how far the people in the town have come and how much further they still have to go,” McCants said.
“The Sparrow” takes flight at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8 for the first of three shows in the Coal City Performing Arts Center.  Additional performances are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m.  Reserved seat tickets are $5 per person and available at ccsparrow.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets will also be available at the door, cash or check only, beginning one hour prior to each performance.