WEST WARWICK — It’s been months since the coronavirus pandemic pressed pause on many aspects of life. And after months of patiently waiting for things to return to normal, Mya Lemery has decided that for the When I Grow Up theater group, it's time for the show to go on.
“We wanted to do something — just anything,” said Lemery, a high school student from West Warwick and founder of the youth theater company.
Lemery, a junior at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, started When I Grow Up when she was just 14. Over the last couple of years, she's directed students from across the state in theater camps and in sold-out cabarets. Last November, her company presented its first full-length production, “Seussical the Musical,” at The Arctic Playhouse.
But when the pandemic hit in March, When I Grow Up had to put many of its plans for 2020 on hold.
“Everybody was really bored, and just in a state where they were really sad and didn’t know what to do,” Lemery said last week.
Lemery became determined to give the young performers something to look forward to.
“So we decided to do a cabaret,” she continued.
Titled “You Will Be Found,” the cabaret will take place outside at the Arctic Playhouse next month, featuring music from “Jersey Boys,” “Hairspray” and “Hamilton,” to name a few. The cast is made up of 16 students, most from West Warwick and Coventry, whose ages range from eight to 14.
And while it’s been a relief for Lemery to return to doing what she loves, she said it’s also been good to see the effect it’s had on the When I Grow Up performers.
“It took them a while to get back in the groove, and used to being around people,” she said, adding that many of the kids, having spent months away from their peers, were initially pretty quiet.
Lemery has taken several steps to adapt to pandemic-related protocols to ensure the health and safety of participants.
The kids began rehearsing over Zoom in August. Those socially-distant rehearsals gave way to small, in-person meetings, and as the cabaret approaches, Lemery will host full-cast rehearsals.
Lemery has been holding the rehearsals in her backyard, since virus transmission is much lower outdoors than inside.
Performers have been wearing masks, taking them off only during breaks, and only if they’re six feet apart from one another.
The cabaret will be held outside, as well, with performers wearing face shields along with their costumes and other props.
Despite the boredom that’s accompanied the coronavirus shutdown, Lemery said she's appreciated the opportunity that the free time has given her to plan some upcoming performances for her theater company. In addition to next month’s cabaret, she’s already figured out the company’s next three shows.
Still, Lemery is thrilled to get back to sharing her passion with the When I Grow Up performers, and can’t wait to show off to audiences what they’ve been up to.
“My mom even said it, ‘there’s just such a difference in you,’” she recalled her mom saying to her after cabaret rehearsals got underway. “I’ve just been so happy.”
“You Will Be Found” will take place Nov. 7 in the parking lot of The Arctic Playhouse, 1249 Main Street Main St., West Warwick, with performances at 12 and 2:30 p.m. Per pandemic restrictions, tickets are being sold in separate blocks of up to four seats scattered throughout the parking lot. Tickets are being sold for $50 per block, and are available now at whenigrowuptheatre.com.