‘It was amazing to watch’: New Trier students pivot to virtual performances of beloved Lagniappe-Potpourri Variety Show
It was going to take a lot more than a global pandemic to put an end to one of the most beloved traditions in New Trier High School history.
For decades, New Trier’s Lagniappe-Potpourri Variety Show has entertained crowds with student-produced and -directed songs, dances, skits and more.
The show has become such an adored part of the New Trier theater department’s history that even the pandemic couldn’t close the curtain on it.
The 2020 production, “From Scratch” made its debut on Thursday, Sept. 24. Instead of performing to a crowded room of theatergoers, the virtual event entertained via Google and Zoom.
The end result showcased months of creativity and collaboration, all for the sake of uniting the community.
Producing the 2020 performance was no easy task. Students were forced to reimagine countless elements of the show, subsequently coming up with solutions to myriad challenges.
In the past, rehearsals took place on one of New Trier’s grand stages. Now, students had to go without the built-in comforts of an auditorium.
From the Skokie Lagoons to one of the many picturesque North Shore parks, students discovered that stages were all around. Donning masks and keeping six feet of distance, skits unfolded, dance steps emerged and notes turned into songs.
Nina Lynn, head sponsor and theater teacher, explained how a new level of life lessons quickly became part of this year’s program.
“Lagniappe is always a great opportunity for students to discover what it’s like to run a show in its entirety,” she said. “This year that opportunity was even greater. Students had to work with the elements they are given. They no longer had the confines of a theater and stage. Wireless microphones needed to be rethought, for example, as did many other aspects of production. Through it all, the students displayed an impressive amount of resiliency and relied on their problem-solving skills. It was amazing to watch.”
Ally Kleinmann, a junior from Glencoe, has been part of Lagniappe for two years. She worked as this year’s technical director, a role that required a heavy amount of management.
Coordinating student schedules and seeking locations to film became a new part of her role. Learning the ins and outs of filming versus performing live became another hoop to jump through.
“Filming became a whole new challenge because many of us didn’t have that type of experience; we were used to performing live and presenting to an audience,” she said. “We realized quickly how a scene could look entirely different on film than when presented live. My job was so different from what I originally imagined.”
Kleinmann shared that the lessons gained from participating in “From Scratch,” transcend the stage.
“We all had to learn how to pivot and adapt to our new situation,” she said. “I will say, being able to pull it off makes me feel like I can pivot more easily to all the other unpredictable situations we are facing this year.”
Just as in years past, “From Scratch” has several performances. Audiences can live stream the show again on Thursdays, Oct. 1 and 8. Both performances start at 7 p.m. and can be streamed from the New Trier performing arts webpage.
While each show was a moving experience for all involved, it was opening night that truly stood out to Lynn.
“On opening night, we all wore our Lagniappe t-shirts and logged in at 7 p.m. to watch the show together,” Lynn said. “This was the first time the students and adult sponsors were watching the entire production, making the experience very exciting.
“Above all, I was most moved by the thread of student comments. There were so many messages of support and celebration; it was amazing to see it all come together and to see how the experience brought everyone together, truly strengthening our community.”
‘From Scratch’ cast
Charlie Baron, Blake Beeler, Kat Blasko, Ava Bozzo, Izzy Fischer, Natalie Fischer, Bella Friedman, Matthew Geis, Sophie Gies, Maggie Gorelick, Joshua Grossman, Sara Grossman, Wynne Hague, Isabel Hajjar, Sage Harper, Roxie Harris, Grace Hepburn, Alice Hu, Reed Jaberg, Annika Juliusson, Hope Kim, Tiger Lee, Jack Malmed, Owen Merrill, Rachel Miller, Svaja Nicklin, Sammy Obel, Sarah Olson, Victor Pascucci IV, Elizabeth Payne, Ericka Pugliese, Maggie Rennie, Trenton Rothbard, Fiona Sack, Arianna Schiff, Maya Szal, Grace Traxler, Katie Truszkowski, Mia von Varga, Jonathan Wolf, Grace Yu and Gabi Zinman.
Miguel Alano, Alberto Ayerza, Bella Baratta, Jasper Bickers, Isabelle Cowan, Iris Ely, Daniel Friedland, Lucy Gale, Paul Graham, Emma Greenlees, Elizabeth Hoffhines, Ethan Hoffman, Meeghan Jakob, Connor Kane, Katie Klaskin, Ally Kleinmann, Jefferson Lin, Eric Liu, Isabel Mangum, Owen May, Carter McDermott, Rebecca Miller, Julie Oelerich, Charlie Plunkett, Paige Sheridan, Pearl Shing-Roth, Will Stevens, Elizabeth Stone, Harold Stricklin, Amelia Tam, Katie Weis, Evie Wigdale, and Henry Witt.
Crew and video editors
Alberto Ayerza, Olivia Babolea, Charlie Baron, Jasper Bickers, Claire Cohen, Daniel Friedland, Lucy Gale, Sam Gordon, Paul Graham, Emma Greenlees, Elizabeth Hoffhines, Ethan Hoffman, Meeghan Jakob, Connor Kane, Katie Klaskin, Ally Kleinmann, Isabel Mangum, Owen May, Carter McDermott, Julie Oelerich, Robbie Petrie, Juliette Rechtin, Paige Sheridan, Pearl Shing-Roth, Will Stevens, Elizabeth Stone, Harold Stricklin, Katie Weis, and Gabi Zinman.
Nina Lynn – Head Sponsor/Producing Mentor
Ryan Dunn – Assistant Sponsor/Writing Mentor
Matt Temple – Assistant Sponsor/Music Mentor
Dave Ferguson – Technical Theatre Mentor
Anders Jacobson – Technical Theatre Mentor
Denise Karczewski – Technical Theatre Mentor
Hilerre Kirsch – Winnetka Performing Arts Coordinator/Directing Mentor
Anne James-Noonan – Northfield Performing Arts Coordinator
Katie Kritek – Choreography Mentor
Emily Arnold Daugherty – Costuming Mentor
Bruce Daugherty – Conducting Mentor
Malcolm Ruhl – Arranging/Composing Mentor
Grover Hollway – Sound Mentor
Helen Lattyak – Stage Management Mentor
Alexa Burnell is a Wilmette resident who has been covering the North Shore for the past seven years, previously for The Wilmette Beacon and its sister newspapers.