Like typical travelers going through an airport, those who attended Mountain View High’s fall play also showed their boarding passes and passed through metal detectors.
That’s because the play, “Delay,” was set in the Dublin Airport and designed to be an immersive experience. Centered around two Irish gate agents, the play told the story of how they relayed a message of a mysterious flight delay to their passengers, who ranged from honeymooning influencers to a stressed-out businessman.
Initially, when director and theater teacher Pancho Morris was looking into potential plays for the production, he was simply looking to accommodate a large cast and spotlight each role.
But after reading over 60 plays, many with racist or sexist elements, Morris decided to approach playwright Sam Shannon to commission a new work.
“You want to include as many students and different types of students as possible, and the only way to really do that is to go out and find new work,” Morris said.
In line with this, he added a dance scene with volunteers from the school’s dance program and choir department, featuring an original musical composition by senior Jesse Miller.
Unlike a typical high school production, with a premiere, students conceived and performed the blocking, scenery, acting and technical work for the first time. The play also included elements such as an apocalypse and alternate reality, introducing the genre of science fiction to Mountain View High for the first time.
The production was incredibly ambitious, especially given complicated tech and staging, Morris said. Stage manager Sierra Kelley coordinated hundreds of cues to present the complex lighting and soundscapes, including streamed TV projections overhead.
In this play, students approached character development differently. Senior Ethan Fey who played Chad, a newlywed influencer, usually watches past performances as a starting point for a given role. But since “Delay” was an original work, he couldn’t do so. Instead, he used influencer Paul Logan and stereotypical toxic masculinity as inspiration.
“I realized I had a unique opportunity to create a unique character,” Fey said.
Like the actors, the audience had no context or background to interpret the story. For some, the layered storylines and numerous characters may have been challenging to understand, said Morris.
“[The audience] can’t look up a plot summary on Wikipedia,” dance ensemble member and junior Levi Chyorny said. “It’s very much a ‘go in blind’ experience.”
Overall, the play was well received. Audience member and parent Indy Siverd said he was impressed that the students contributed so much time and energy to the project.
The collective effort served not only to entertain but also to enlighten. While each audience member may interpret the show differently, Morris hopes it serves as a wake up call.
“You get one life to live and we spend most of our lives not actually enjoying them, or reflecting on them and often far too late,” Morris said. “I hope amidst the spectacle, they had a moment of self-reflection themselves.”