Flint, MI— “Places, everyone! Places!” Theater Director Gina Morris-Cicalo shouted at students wandering about the stage.

“And remember: if you can see the audience, they can see you,” she said, a phrase all too familiar to anyone who has dabbled in the performing arts.

But for these students, it may have been their first time hearing it. It’s been 14 years since someone uttered the saying in the high school’s auditorium.

However, Southwestern Classical Academy is bringing back on-stage productions, and on Dec. 10 will showcase their first live performance since 2007.

The play, entitled “Mutually Assured Destruction: 10 Plays about Brothers and Sisters” written by Don Zolidis, is a series of vignettes that take place in different decades. Each scene focuses on a relationship between two siblings.

“I thought the short vignettes would be a good way to ease them into the commitment of after school (activities),” Morris-Cicalo said.

Anthony Guerrero and Lawrence Radden practice their lines during a dress rehearsal for the Southwestern Classical Academy’s production of “Mutually Assured Destruction” on Dec. 8, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

The students selected the play in 2020 but, due to the pandemic, were unable to perform it. Instead, they presented a mini version of the show virtually, Morris-Cicalo said.

“It’s kind of fun and ironic that this script was picked because it’s family, which theatre is, and it’s history, which is what they’re making, because it goes through all these decades,” Morris-Cicalo said.

Students also chose their own scenes, and some based their decision on characters they could related to.

Kamira Vorrice, 16, opted to play Jessica, a 1960s hippie who feels rejected by her family because of her lifestyle (and refusal to shower).

“You know how kids and other people feel like they’re the black sheep of the family and they’re not loved as much? So it feels like a good representation of it,” Vorrice said, adding that she could relate to feeling like a black sheep at times.

Other students, like Amarion Carter, 16, performed virtually the previous year and wanted to try a new scene. Being an athlete in real life, Carter played a basketball player last year. This year he’ll portray a modern-day brother who embarrassed his sister by commenting on her crush’s Instagram.

“I play a lot of sports. I feel like if I don’t go right with sports, I’ll probably want to act,” Carter said.

Though schools have opened this year, Morris-Cicalo said there have still been hurdles preparing for opening night.

“We all read the paper and see the news and know what a challenge returning to school has been. … There are a lot of students that started with us that couldn’t make it to the end. There’s some students that we lost as late as today. And so, the students, they’re new and they’re learning, but that they’re the most dedicated group I’ve ever worked with,” Morris-Cicalo said.

Students are also learning what it takes to put on a play.

“Practicing and practicing and being in a play is pretty stressful. But other than that, I just learned to have fun, “ Miss Jones,16, said.

Jones said she helps where she can. Between her part-time job at McDonalds and helping other students learn their cues, her schedule gets hectic.

“I leave at 3:30 every day, except for tomorrow. I got to go to work,” Jones said. “I try to fit everything in before school so then after school, I only have to fit a little bit in and then I’ll be on my way without no problem.”

Flint Southwestern Classical Academy student Kamira Vorrice, 16, who plays Jessica in the school’s first play in 14 years, “Mutually Assured Destruction,” practices her part during dress rehearsal on Dec. 8, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

To make the program possible, Southwestern received multiple grants from the Crim Foundation and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The Flint Community Players also lent the school flats to build a set. Students were then in charge of painting and constructing them.

Morris-Cicalo said they plan to continue building the program over the next few years.

“Next semester will definitely be about scenery construction, so that they can get that experience. As soon as our own wood comes in,” Morris-Cicalo said.

She added that even if funding falls through, she will “find a way” to make it happen and hopes to one day put on a full-fledged production like “Annie.”

“I’m not sure if (the students) grasp what a great deal this is for the community. Because the last time there was a play was before a lot of them were born. … People really liked having high school plays in Flint and there hasn’t been one,” Morris-Cicalo said.

The show opens at 5 p.m. Dec. 10 at Southwestern, located at 1420 W 12th St, Flint. It is free to the public. The playbill, which includes a play synopsis and the names of the cast and crew can be found here.  

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...

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