As an actress, Kiki Sikora is used to taking on new roles. The Fenwick High School junior likes to study her characters inside out, mirroring their mannerisms and attitudes.
But being cast as Charlotte, one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters, proved to be Sikora’s biggest challenge yet. In order to transform into Charlotte, the 16-year-old traded in her sweet, bubbly personality for her part’s bold, oftentimes blunt and catty disposition.
“My character is one that is just so strong and over exaggerated with everything,” said Sikora who was part of Fenwick’s spring production of Roger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” which was held the weekend of April 23. “When you play a character like that, I think it’s sort of like you just have to become that.”
Sikora, however, wasn’t the only one who found herself moving outside her comfort zone. Other members of Fenwick’s “Cinderella” cast and stage crew were constantly adjusting on and off the stage, as COVID-19 guidelines continued to change, said Caleb Faille, the show’s director.
While plans for “Cinderella” sought to bring back live theater, Faille and students prioritized each other’s health and their safety. The total number of cast and crew members was limited to about 30 students. Students were also required to wear masks and practice social distancing during in-person rehearsals. There were also times when practices were hosted over Zoom, said Faille.
“There was a point in the rehearsal process where my entire cast just had to quarantine for a couple of weeks due to some [COVID-19] exposure around the school,” said Faille, who also serves as the high school’s choral director and theater teacher. “That definitely made it difficult to try to keep our production moving forward when you can’t meet with your kids.”
Faille said the journey to opening night was long, but he remained proud of his students’ resiliency and work ethic.
“It was breathtaking,” said Faille, reflecting on that April 23 weekend. “It’s been so long since an audience has been able to experience live musicians and live acting on stage. The atmosphere was electric. People were on the edge of their seats, ready for the overture to start.”
The production of “Cinderella” debuted inside the high school auditorium before a 40-member audience. Attendees, who were mostly made up of students’ families, were asked to fill out a pre-screening form to further ensure people’s well-being, Faille said. “Cinderella” was also livestreamed to reach a wider audience.
“It was really great to be able to have live theater again and do it safely,” Faille said.
Dante Nottoli, Sikora’s castmate who snagged the lead role of Prince Topher, echoed Faille’s sentiments. The 17-year-old Nottoli found it stressful to keep up with play practices, homework and the daily challenges of the pandemic, and he almost did not join the musical because of that.
Nottoli said he also struggled to relate to Prince Topher and the musical’s songs. “I got a few bands, and I sing rock and funk music and pop,” said Nottoli, a junior at Fenwick.
Like Sikora, Nottoli decided to work around it and walked away with a lesson that encompassed his experience.
“Just go for it,” he said.