Thinking outside the box

Photo by Ann Gill COAL CITY HIGH School students Riley Nevin, Derek Carlson, Dylan Ludes and Zoe Smith will take the stage this weekend in the Coal City Theatre Department’s production of “The Outsiders.”

Ann Gill

In these unprecedented days of pandemic with so many events and outings canceled, the Coal City Theatre Department is finding a new way to bring theater to the community and provide students with an outlet to showcase their talents. This weekend, an all-student cast will present “The Outsiders,” a two act play by Christopher Sergel and based upon the novel by S.E. Hinton. Director Jack Micetich had the title on his short list for shows in 2019, but in the end decided to go in a different direction and slated the title for fall 2020. Little did he know at the time, pushing the show off a year would end up being the right decision. Just five months after staging the annual fall play and in the midst of the high school musical season, the coronavirus pandemic took hold. As the school year approached, the question was, what can the theatre department do given the guidelines in place for not only schools, but theatre as well? The pandemic had the director thinking outside the box, and to accommodate a live audience the show would have to go outside the walls of the Coal City Performing Art Center. With an assurance of support from the village of Coal City, Micetich found himself driving around town looking for the perfect outdoor venue. He spotted a few interesting and historic buildings that would provide the perfect backdrop, but he needed enough space to ensure he could meet social distancing guidelines. In the end he found the perfect location on the Coal City Intermediate School campus, and in a few short weeks an outdoor stage was constructed and set built. Taking “The Outsiders” outside was the creative out of the box thinking that would provide the students a platform to showcase their acting talents and ensure a live audience could be there to enjoy their work. As a senior, cast member Riley Nevin said he is especially thankful with all that is going on the school district was open to the concept of taking the show outdoors. “When I sat down with our drama club officers, it was evident they wanted to take this moment in time to create something unique,” Micetich said. And, they have done that with their take on the tale of Ponyboy and his greaser friends who get caught up in territorial battles with those who appear to have it all. Like the characters they portray, the performers have learned that just when it appears you have it all at your finger tips it can be taken away in a moments notice, and as Micetich has told them you have to learn to pivot. The director is taking his own advice these days as he’s navigating a production in a space without walls, electricity, sound or seating. Along with constructing a stage there were the scenic design elements that had to be brought on site. There were no stage lights on the school baseball field, so that meant coordinating with a lighting company and securing a generator to power it all. With no walls to secure any of it, there was the extra step of coordinating security and protecting the equipment from the elements like wind and rain. “It’s been a learning experience for all of us, and we are grateful for the many partnerships we’ve built though this process,” Micetich said. He points to the generosity of companies like D Construction, Sunbbelt Rentals, Family Skate Center and Giggle’s Pizza, as well as D’Arcy Motors and organizations like the village of Coal City, Coal City Fire Protection District and countless others who are lending a hand. The biggest buy-in in moving outdoors has come from the students—actors and crew members—who arrive at rehearsals ready to perform no matter the conditions. Micetich said his cast has created something special in this outdoor space. “I could not be prouder of this group of students,” the director said. The cast is comprised of Nevin, Dylan Ludes, Griffin Johnson, DeKotah Rueger, Caden Hennessy, Derek Carlson, Zoe Smith and Adeline Connor. Also, Luke VanDuyne, Gabe Ludes, Anjalie Medina, Madison Holcomb, Landen Selio, Caleb Kuhel, Isabelle Kostbade, Chloe Peacock, Eli Fritz and Chase Cora. “The Outsiders” will be presented at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 9, Saturday, Oct. 10 and Sunday, Oct. 11 on the Coal City Intermediate School campus. Streets around the performance space—Vermillion to Kankakee Street and a portion of Washington Street north of Church Street will be closed during the performances. Reserved seat tickets are available at When you purchase tickets online, you will be asked to choose a space that seats two, four or six to eight people. Each space is socially distanced for the heath and safety of everyone in attendance. Audience members must provide their own seating for their reserved space. A limited amount of seating will be available on the day of show and tickets will be available from the box office located on the southside of the school. Seating will begin at 6:15 p.m., and all audience members are asked to be seated by 6:50 p.m. Face masks must be worn by all patrons when moving through the space. Daily updates on the production can be located on the Coal City Theatre Dept. social media pages—Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Although the weather for the weekend looks ideal for an outdoor production, should inclement weather occur Monday, Oct. 12 will serve as a rain date,” Micetich shared.