Curtains will rise despite flood damage at Nicolet

Mark Abramson
Cast members of Nicolet High School’s fall production “The Miser” listen to stage directions and comments from Director Kenn Miller. The show’s debut Thursday is on schedule even though school started late because of massive flooding in July.
Published on: 10/28/2010

Three months after water poured down onto Nicolet High School's theater stage like a waterfall, 14 young actors and actresses will perform - on schedule - the school's fall production.

Though the production includes a man who believes he has lost his treasure and a family reunited after being separated at sea, the cast is not performing the story of how their theater was soaked during the July floods, which also destroyed 80% of the school. Instead, the troupe is performing "The Miser," a 17th-century comedy that revolves around a penny-pinching man and how his miserliness affects his family and household.

While every production gives the students a sense of pride, those involved said they were especially proud of this one. In the storms, water rushed into the school from all directions, submerging the basement in six feet of water and covering the main level with a few inches. The theater is on the school's main level, but backstage included a tunnel to the basement, where props and other items were stored.

"My 28 years of collecting props and furniture, everything was pretty much destroyed," said Kenn Miller, director of theatre arts at Nicolet.

Lost among the collection were several period pieces, including an antique Victrola phonograph, a sofa from the 1920s valued at $1,000 and a settee couch and matching chairs from the 1890s. The basement also was home to the dressing rooms, filled with costume makeup, and three rooms filled to the brim with props, including antique wine and alcohol bottles, lamps and "just about anything you can imagine."

"It's barren down there," said Grace Hussey, a senior who has spent time on the stage and behind the scenes. "It's so depressing."

Miller said everything was "just sort of floating" after the flood hit. When items dried out, even if they looked all right, they were hauled into the parking lot and thrown into the Dumpster. The costumes, which were stored upstairs, were untouched.

When school officials announced that school would start two weeks late, Miller initially canceled the show. But he decided that the show must go on, so he reworked the schedule and chose a show that was not prop-heavy. Auditions were held during the second week of school.

"When I first heard the news, I thought we were sort of getting cheated out of senior year," said Noah Rowlett, a senior playing the lead role of Harpagon. "But once it all started to come together, I realized that wasn't really the case."

The basic set, built from scratch, remains static throughout the production and consists of a handful of furniture and props, a money box, a couple of chairs and three chandeliers, which were purchased. The winter musical this year will be "Urinetown," also known for having a static set and fewer props. After putting "The Miser" together, Hussey said, she's not worried about putting together the musical.

The theater productions weren't the only aspects of the drama department to be affected by the loss. Miller's theater and acting courses felt a hit because they rely heavily on having props at their disposal during class.

"It's sort of every man for himself now," said Steven Long, a sophomore playing Valere who is in one of Miller's classes this year. "You really have to find your own stuff, and you end up bringing a lot from home."

Miller said that while insurance had replaced a few items, he is still waiting for funding to search for replacements at consignment shops and garage sales.

The overall repairs at Nicolet cost about $9 million, most of which was covered by insurance and money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The school replaced flooring in almost the entire building, purchased two new boilers at $160,000 each, bought new football equipment, and repaired three of the school's main electrical units.


Theater reopens

Who: Nicolet High School drama club

What: "The Miser"

When: The cast will begin technical dress rehearsals on Sunday. The play opens Thursday. The show runs Nov. 4, 5 and 6 beginning at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 7 beginning at 2 p.m.

Where: Nicolet High School, 6701 N. Nicolet Road, Glendale