Owl Theatre Co. back onstage with show opening tonight

Not having theater as an outlet was difficult for Seymour High School students who just wanted to be onstage.

The Owl Theatre Co. just completed its 2020 show before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools from March to May.

Then last school year, the theater department wasn’t allowed to do a show, again related to the pandemic.

In recent months, though, 21 students, Student Director Millie Hays, Director Erik Stangland and the crew have been working hard to present the first show since 2020.

They didn’t cause pandemonium while being away from the stage, but now they are presenting a show with that name: “Pandemonium.”

“I was itching for it. As soon as we started doing auditions, I’m like, ‘I miss theater people so much,’” Hays, a senior, said. “I like the whole family vibe of it because as soon as I got back with my theater people, I’m like, ‘Great. I know time has passed, but this is amazing.’ It just has the same energy.”

Fellow senior Mackenzie Pyle also is glad to be back onstage for her final year of high school.

“Honestly, I think we were all ready to do another show. We were missing it,” she said. “We all just wanted another good show after the last one.”

“Pandemonium,” which was written by J.D. Atkins, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday in the school’s Earl D. Prout Auditorium. Tickets are $5 at the door. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.

“Who killed Zeus?” is the question that private detective Minerva Owler, played by Pyle, is trying to answer in modern-day New York City. The Greek gods live incognito among the mortals, but when Zeus is murdered by one of their own, it’s up to the goddess of wisdom, Minerva, to find out who is behind the betrayal.

With the help of her Olympian siblings emergency medical technician Mercury, played by Gabriella Parisi, and Sgt. Mars of the New York Police Department, played by Rieder MacDonald Minerva leads the investigation, but it may already be too late. Only the world’s wisest detective stands a chance at finding the traitor in time to stop the coming of “Pandemonium.”

Once the Owl Theatre Co. was cleared to do a show this school year, Stangland picked a student director, narrowed down the show options and presented them to her.

Hays selected “Pandemonium” and began working on the show in late September, did casting in November and the cast had its initial read-through at the end of December. Rehearsals and set building began in January.

Hays said she had been in two of the theater department’s plays and three of the school musicals, so she has a lot of experience in general, but this is her first time directing.

“I really enjoy it because (Stangland) gives me a lot of creative liberties,” Hays said. “I picked the show myself. It was my decision. I did pretty much all of the casting myself.”

She was drawn to the show because it includes a modern style of Greek gods and also is kind of a murder mystery.

“I just thought it was really intriguing,” Hays said. “There are some funny moments, and there are some more serious moments.”

In terms of casting, she said she looked at who would fit the main characters the best. She thought Pyle embodied the energy of Minerva really well.

While Pyle said she initially wanted a chill, small role for her senior year, her thoughts changed as she learned more about the characters.

“I started reading the role for Minerva during auditions and I was like, ‘I don’t think anyone could play this better than I could’ just because I am so similar to the character,” she said of the snarky Minerva. “It’s fun to play the sarcastic character. You just get to talk around everyone else.”

Plus, she didn’t have to buy any pieces for her costume.

“I picked what was out of my wardrobe and I was like, ‘This is my costume,’” she said.

In his role, MacDonald has a lot of interactions with Pyle.

“My character is very fun,” he said. “My character is very much me but if I was a little more serious. He fits me really well. He’s a very fun character to portray.”

He also likes the storyline.

“The story is very much focused on family,” MacDonald said. “I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but it’s very important to the story, and it’s a very nice story.”

Junior Paul Bontrager has fit well into his character, too. He plays the role of Bacchus, who he describes as “very funny any flamboyant.”

Hays and all of the actors agree they are just happy to be back onstage.

“I just had so much fun with it last time, and I knew it would be a wonderful time, which it definitely has been. It has been great,” MacDonald said.

Hays said even though she is graduating in the spring, she would definitely like to continue acting or directing in college.

“Because I really enjoy it,” she said. “I’ve met some very lovely people through this.”

Stangland said the school has had a theater department for a long time, but it was named Owl Theatre Co. after he started at SHS in 1999. Auditions are open to all students freshmen through seniors as long as they meet the grade requirements.

He has had as many as three shows in one school year, and that number depends on the availability of the auditorium.

If you go 

What: Owl Theatre Co.’s production of “Pandemonium”

When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday (doors open at 6:45 p.m.)

Where: Seymour High School’s Earl D. Prout Auditorium

Cost: $5 at the door

Director: Erik Stangland

Student director: Millie Hays

Cast: Mackenzie Pyle, Jonas Hildreth, Rieder MacDonald, Gabriella Parisi, Paul Bontrager, Hailey Burke, Haleigh Brott, Drew Knutson, Megan Hohnstreiter, Branden Capps, Braden Capps, Rayna Murphy, Ava Shuler, Josh Sanchez, Haley Anderson, Karsen Reasoner, Aryona Horton, Brooke Knieriem, Audrey Redlin, Irene Jimenez and Zoe Hassall