The show must go on

Published 6:41 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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‘Sally Cotter and the Censored Stone’ satire of favored wizard marks return of the Austin High School drama program


It’s been a while since an Austin High School play has graced a stage, but new director Kimberly Potter is ready to change that.

Starting next Thursday, the newly revitalized AHS drama department will present a four-show run of “Sally Cotter and the Censored Stone,” a satire play of everybody’s favorite boy wizard.

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The play, which focuses on a version of the story if a executive censor played a part in how the story plays out, will be shown at 7 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Ellis Middle School, a new location for AHS plays, which would usually be shown at the school’s Christgau Hall or in Knowlton Auditorium.

“Being a new program, Knowlton is a little big to take up that amount of space,” Potter said Thursday afternoon. “Christgau is a beautiful space, but acoustically it’s inappropriate for what we need. The next logical step is looking at a place we don’t have to rent. Ellis is a really nice facility. It just makes sense.”

While the drama department at the high school never ended necessarily, it was put on extended hiatus by the COVID-19 pandemic that shut most everything down in March of 2020.

However, as the pandemic let up and restrictions loosened, performances never started back up.

It was something that began to eat away at Potter, who has connections to Riverland Community College Theatre, Summerset Theatre and the Matchbox Children’s Theatre. She also has a pair of daughters who have interests in drama.

“My daughter, a sophomore, was really missing out,” said Potter, who through the support of others was encouraged to take up the mantle of director. “‘Why don’t you do it?’ I had a lot of people say, ‘I got your back, we’ll do this, help you with that.’ Just a lot of community driving it.”

Potter approached the district about her interest in April of last year and eventually met with new Activities Director Katie Raso Carter.

“It was really well received,” Potter said.

The interest was definitely there. Potter said that when the drama department was forced to stop performing there were just six kids, however, since its new beginning there were 25 kids initially, a number that ballooned to 35.

The department started coming together, meeting and doing various things in the community. In turn, what Potter found was that the kids were happy to find a community of their own again.

“Some of the things they mentioned is this is a place they can be themselves and not feel judged,” Potter said. “Meeting new people, pursuing activities in their own age group. They feel heard. I feel like they found a family, found their people.”

Through that window, it’s easy to see why the upcoming satire was a good choice for their first playback.

It was not only in their “wheelhouse,” Potter explained, but it was a chance to avoid being cliché while trying something new.

“I know we can do some famous things, but we really wanted to have a fun piece and I wanted to think outside the box,” Potter said. “The kids were very much excited. Watching Harry Potter and the wizard stuff. That’s their wheelhouse.”

The department has also benefited from Potter’s background with the other play groups in town as well as collaborations with the entities, including being able to use backdrops and costumes.

Riverland even let them come and observe one of their productions.

However, when it’s all said and done, Potter hopes the lasting effect of the department is one of pride.

“I think for me the biggest thing is these students have a safe place where they know they can be heard,” she said. “I just want to see pride on their faces and their parent’s faces.”

Tickets for the upcoming shows are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Season passes are also accepted. Tickets are available at the door.