Urbana Theater Variety Show

From left, Urbana High School theater students Matika Pounginjai, Jene Hope-Jones, Tommy Wright, Chandler Jones and Clara Hazen, pose on stage ahead of the program’s annual variety show, which will be streamed online Friday and Saturday.

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URBANA — When former Urbana High School theater Director Tim Broeker left the school in the spring, co-director Alyssa Pavlakis and students from Broeker’s time at the school put together a variety show for him over Zoom, recording their favorite songs and monologues to perform for the outgoing director.

That got Pavlakis, her students and co-directors thinking bigger.

“We thought, ‘If we can do that, can we make it better than that?’” Pavlakis said.

With restrictions in place allowing only very small groups of students in the building, the high school theater department got to work this fall on their annual show called “Muthvash,” which is a compilation of the words, “Musical Theater Variety Show.”

“I really sat down with my fellow directors as well as the kids and said, ‘OK, how can we make this the best it can be?” Pavlakis said. “Because you can make art anywhere. It was just, ‘How can we make this as good as possible?’”

In the show, actors will perform 17 monologues and songs from their favorite musicals and plays. The hour-and-a-half show will stream at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at showtix4u.com. The show will cost $5 for students, $7 for adults and $10 for a family.

The show comes off of a devastating summer in which students involved in the production of “Theory of Relativity” who were invited to perform at the prestigious International Thespian Festival had to do so virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. The disappointment lingered, but the program was also left with the donations it received to allow students to attend.

With that money, they bought a new camera, on which they filmed this weekend’s show, and they hired local artists to give workshops.

Throughout the production, Pavlakis has been blown away by the quality of production her students have been able to create. The show was filmed by senior Max Pociask, who wants to become a film director. Pociask filmed a variety of shots of the actors, who mostly came in individually. That footage then was given to sophomore Amelia Gimbel, who had already edited seven out of the 17 pieces within a day of receiving the footage.

“It was a lot of the kids figuring out as we went how to make this show look as normal as possible,” Pavlakis said. “I’m so impressed with my kids that I can’t sing their praises enough.”

From lighting to set design to acting to filming and editing, this play has been different from any ever performed at Urbana. During a time with plenty of experiences lost for high-schoolers, Pavlakis’ students were able to learn a completely new process in a familiar environment.

“We’ve really been trying to say, ‘This isn’t normal,’ and, ‘How do we make this as good as possible,’ because this opens up other opportunities, things we maybe usually don’t think about,” Pavlakis said. “When my kids stepped into the theater, even though it wasn’t normal, even though it was only like three kids at a time, they were like, ‘I’m home.’”

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