BURNT HILLS – When the curtain goes up Friday on the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School auditorium stage, every cast member will have a chance at the spotlight.
As part of a new Unified Theater program at the school, a cast and crew of roughly 25 from both the general student population and special education population will present “The Holiday’s Revenge,” an original play written by two sophomore sisters.
“Everybody gets to shine,” said Katie Bikowicz, producer of the show.
The school, along with others in the Capital Region, has had a Unified Basketball and Unified Bowling program for years. This marks the first Unified program it will offer in the performing arts.
Michael Mosall, a teacher at the high school and the club’s adviser, was first approached by principal Tim Brunson about starting the club last year. Mosall’s daughters, Audrey and Emerson Mosall, have both been involved in Unified Basketball and wanted to help get a similar theater program off the ground.
So they decided to write their own production.
In it, the lesser holidays are upset at the major holidays that everyone loves to celebrate — Hanukkah, Christmas, etc.
“It mainly takes place at an award ceremony — a lot like the Emmys — where [the main holidays are] presenting awards to themselves,” Emerson Mosall said.
Some of the lesser holidays decide to team up and do something about the imbalance. They learn some lessons along the way.
After months of working on the script, when it came time to hold auditions the sisters were surprised by the turnout.
“A lot of people came. So many more people came than we thought. That was really nice. We were able to cast everybody the day after,” Audrey Mosall said.
To ensure that as many people could be in the production as possible, they also scheduled fewer rehearsals and included roles for many characters.
“It was so cool to hear people reading our lines and dressing up in the characters that we created,” Audrey said.
For students such as Phoebe Amirault, it’s been a unique experience. She grew up taking dance and acting classes and has done background work on films though she’d recently taken a break from acting.
“I really was very pulled apart for a kid at that age to be doing so much,” Amirault said. “And I like this because it’s something that I feel like in so many theater troupes, and so many dance competition places that I did, it was not as inclusive a space, and I feel like [this] definitely creates an inclusive space in an area that you don’t see as many inclusive spaces. It’s a fun way to get back into something that I used to love.”
For Katie Ziegler, who is involved in other theater programs, it’s been great to see other people finally have the chance to experience what it’s like to perform.
“This has just been one of the greatest experiences because I know a lot of people that typically couldn’t do a regular drama club because it was very intense, very time-consuming. And I just saw how much it excited them to be a part of this. One of the most rewarding things is hanging out with them at rehearsal and just seeing how thrilled they were,” Ziegler said.
The program also includes students who want to support Unified Theater and be involved but don’t want to appear onstage.
“The great thing about this production is however someone wants to participate, that’s how they were able to participate,” Bikowicz said.
Student artwork is featured in the show programs. The club’s logo was designed by a student and featured on club T-shirts, which were produced by Spectrum Designs, a company based downstate that hires neurodivergent employees.
The Mosall sisters also noted that several teachers and others volunteered to help with everything from costumes to set pieces, making sure every student gets a chance to shine on Friday.
The show starts at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium and is free to attend, though donations are welcome.
While the Mosall sisters are focused mainly on “The Holiday’s Revenge” this week, they’re already thinking of penning another script for next year’s Unified Theater production.
“That’s the plan,” Emerson said.