Wayzata High theatre explores tragedy, forgiveness in ‘The Sparrow’

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The Wayzata High School Theatre Department presents “The Sparrow” as its spring play. Actors rehearse one of the final scenes of the play. (Sun Sailor photo by Kristen Miller)

The spring play debuts Friday, April 28

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Rehearsing one of the final scenes in “The Sparrow” are Eric Dagoberg as Mr, Christopher and Shawna Spiry as Emily. (Sun Sailor photo by Kristen Miller)

Wayzata High School theatre students are in their final weeks of rehearsal of the spring play “The Sparrow,” which takes the stage beginning Friday, April 28.

“The Sparrow” tells the story of Emily Book, the sole survivor of a bus accident that happened when she was in second grade and claimed the lives of all of her classmates and the driver.

After leaving town following the accident, Emily returns to Spring Farms, Illinois, 10 years later to complete her senior year of high school.

With no living family, Emily, played by Shawn Spiry, is taken in by one of her former classmates’ parents, played by Hope Shishilla and Cole Seager.

Emily finds a confidant in her biology teacher, Mr. Christopher, played by senior and veteran actor Eric Dagoberg. Mr. Christopher grapples with his own loss, but steps up to be Emily’s main advocate.

Sonia Gerber, Wayzata High School theatre director, explained how the play derived from a theater company in her hometown of Chicago. Having seen the play performed several times across the state, Gerber said she is excited to bring the play to Wayzata High School.
“It’s a really unique and special piece,” she said.

“It really resonates with high school students,” Gerber said, as it tells the story of “teenage angst, an outsider trying to chart her way, families dealing with loss, superhero powers, guilt, and the power of forgiveness.”

Referencing the synopsis, Gerber explained the story “taps into the fundamental aching of adolescence” fearing they are somehow different, while hoping they are somehow special in their own way.

Even though the play is a drama, it steps into fantasy as magical elements start to appear in the story.

It becomes almost like a comic book, Gerber said, and the crew is challenged to make these magical moments come to life on stage.

Because the play was created by an ensemble cast, “we’re trying our best to honor that type of creative process in how we stage the play,” Gerber said, in the sense that students have a greater role in the creative process in bringing the story to life.

There are several scenes where the three student directors collaborated to figure out key elements, such as how to make books fly and staging a basketball game.

Gerber described the story as both dark and light, in that it touches on how people move on from grief and loss, Gerber explained.

While a veteran to theatre, this is Spiry’s first time in a lead role.
“I enjoy Emily because she is so brave, but at the same time she is scared of herself more than she is scared of others,” Spiry said, explaining Emily purposely doesn’t get close to others for fear she will hurt them. This is also something Spiry said she can relate to, which has helped make the character even more real.

“I like how she grows through the play,” Spiry said, noting Emily is no longer afraid to be herself by the end of the show.

Playing someone who has gone through such a loss as Mr. Christopher requires a lot thought, Dagoberg said, noting his character carries a lot of burden between his own guilt and being a role model for others.

“It’s one of the most interesting and one of the deeper characters I’ve played,” he said.

If you go:
What: The Sparrow, presented by the Wayzata High School Theatre Department
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 28; Saturday, April 29; Friday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 6.
Where: Wayzata High School, Auditorium 2, the new theatre
Cost: Reserved seating, tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens, $10 for students, and can be purchased online at whstheatre.com/box-office or at the box office one hour prior to performance.

Questions can be directed to Kris Nelson 763-745-6907.

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected]