MHS Theatre Takes on ‘Picnic’ for Winter Play

Junior+Payton+Cousins+%28left%29+and+Senior+Marisa+Nuzzo+%28right%29+share+a+moment+on+stage+as+Flo+and+Madge+Owens+in+MHS+Picnic.

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Junior Payton Cousins (left) and Senior Marisa Nuzzo (right) share a moment on stage as Flo and Madge Owens in MHS’ ‘Picnic’.

Gigi Scibetta, Staff Reporter

The MHS theater program put on William Inge’s “Picnic” as its winter play at the beginning of February, starring Senior Marissa Nuzzo (Madge Owen), Junior Brenden Paul (Hal Carter) and Junior Payton Cousins (Flo Owens).

The play was performed five different times during the weekend of Feb. 4-7, including a Senior Citizens’ Night and an understudy performance.

According to Paul, each night brought in large crowds, filling the middle section of the school auditorium. The biggest draw was the Senior Citizens’ Night, which in Nuzzo’s opinion, was her favorite night to put on. More than 180 senior citizens came to watch the performance.

“[Senior citizens] are the best audience,” Nuzzo said. “They understand all of our jokes. They have so much energy and are a lot of fun.”

Senior Citizens’ Night is sponsored by MHS’s Interact club.  Members of the club host a free dinner for the senior citizens of Mundelein before the performance.  According to the club’s adviser, Joan Hornby, many of the senior citizens said it is a night they look forward to.

“It’s the idea that they get invited into the school that they enjoy,” said Hornby. “They like to see teenagers and find out how they act and that they get to sit down and enjoy it with other senior citizens.”

She added that they were particularly excited about “Picnic” because it first was performed when many of them were in their late teens or early 20s.

“Many of them must have seen the movie or play when it came out,” said Hornby. “It is why they are very familiar with the production.”

Specifically, Hornby remembers that she was a student at the University of Iowa when she saw the film.

“Picnic” is a story about the morning of a town’s Labor Day picnic. Hal Carter (Brenden Paul) has little going for him in life and goes into town looking for a job. He meets Madge Owens (Marissa Nuzzo), who is also his best friend Alan Seymour’s girlfriend. Soon it takes a turn, and Carter finds himself falling in love with Owens.

While Nuzzo found the Senior Citizens’ Night memorable, Cousins’ favorite performance involved the understudies, which gave a chance for the leads to sit in the front row and watch their characters performed by their alternates on their own stage.

Cousins’ understudy was Elizabeth Krauss, freshman.

“It was like an out-of-body experience,” Cousins said. “I was in my seat mouthing the words, aside from the fact that it was weird, I was so proud of Ella [Elizabeth].”

Cousins said it had been an honor to see Krauss perform because the two worked closely during rehearsals.  It also gave the understudies a chance to perform because many times they do not get to perform for the audience if their lead is able to perform at all the productions.

Paul’s favorite part of the production season was working with his fellow cast members.

“The community in the theater program was what made me love being a part of “Picnic”,” said Paul.

Paul added that the principle cast worked really well together, which became important since the rehearsal time saw a couple of interruptions after auditions occurred in November.

“We had Thanksgiving and winter break; it wasn’t a ton of time [around those breaks], but we got through it,” said Paul.

The MHS theater program is no stranger to team work since the program puts on senior-directed one-acts, a fall and winter play, a spring musical, and for the first time this year, a New Faces performance, which gave students who had never performed on the MHS stage a chance to do so, as the cast leads usually go to veteran MHS actors.

Yet for Nuzzo, this was her first time as a lead, despite being a senior and a member of every production during her four years at MHS.  She said she was eager to be a lead that the rest of the cast looked up to.

“I have never been a lead before, and with “Picnic”, I was so happy to be a senior leader; it made it so much fun,” said Nuzzo.

The students at MHS are frequently moving from one show to another to create entertainment for the residences of Mundelein. Less than two weeks after “Picnic” ended, auditions for the spring musical began.

The spring musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” will open April 28.  The production run will include another Senior Citizens’ Night that will not only offer the dinner and the performance but access to the AP Art Show as well.

UPDATE: In the print version of this article, Payton and Brenden’s names were spelled incorrectly along with the character Flo. The character Alan Seymour was incorrectly referred to as Alan Benson; and the article misstated that Hal Carter went into town to spend the weekend with a friend.

In addition, the opening date for the musical was incorrectly stated as April 29th.