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INTERVIEW: Producer Melissa Luppi On Pierson High School's "10 Ways To Survive Life In A Quarantine"

T.J. Clemente

Pierson High School students prepare for their presentation of Don Zolidis' 10 Ways to Survive Life in a Quarantine. (Photo: Courtesy of Sag Harbor School District)

Nothing is quite normal for the students of Pierson High School in Sag Harbor in 2020. However, one thing that will offer a hint of normality for the teens is the presentation of the school's fall play. Don Zolidis' 10 Ways to Survive Life in a Quarantine will be presented live on Thursday, December 17 and Friday, December 18 at Pierson and then will be available to stream via Broadway On Demand on Monday, December 21 and Tuesday, December 22.

"These seniors are going through a lot. There was no homecoming, they are going to class only three days a week," Melissa Luppi, who is producing the play, said. "They are so resilient. That's why doing this show is so important."

Luppi, a retired Pierson High School teacher, has been producing shows - both plays and musicals - at Pierson for the last 15 years, yet she calls this production her most memorable. She told Hamptons.com, "This is a drama. We usually do a drama in the fall or straight play in the fall and then a musical in the spring. This is our straight play. There were some parents and some students who really wanted to do a fall play, as did myself and the director Keith Holden, who is a high school English teacher."

When asked about the process of getting the okay for the show, she explained, "We talked to our wonderful principal, Brittany Carriero, who was very supportive and who spoke to the superintendent and the school board on our behalf. Then we received the go-ahead to proceed - with kids in masks, socially distant. We had to practice in the band room because they had transformed the stage into a teacher's room."

Once approved, they got down to business. "Keith and I found a show that I think was written to be performed on Zoom, but it worked because who knew at that point, and even at this point, whether the school was going to close. So far, so good. This is a show called 10 Ways to Survive Life in a Quarantine. Within those ten ways, there are two or three characters explaining how they are coping through, surviving, whatever. It is a comedy, so it's very timely with references to current situations with references to social media and that sort of thing."

She continued, "The characters are all teenagers reflecting on distance learning, just all sorts of aspects. It was good to produce because the way we are doing it is just one host and a co-host and those two roles are being played by students, one who handles the sound, the microphones, et cetera, and the other student who handles the lighting. It is a total cast of 12 high school students, with another student as a stage manager. The way it is going to go is the first person comes out, lights go up, and she does her little bit."

At times, Luppi was very sentimental, especially when she reflected, "I have watched these seniors perhaps their whole academic experience. To see the way they have come together determined to get this right is very special." She explained that this play "was written for students spending long days at home or social distancing." She elaborated, "It is quite humorous and the kids have done a terrific job. The plan is to do two live performances for very limited audiences and then stream via Broadway On Demand, free of cost. The school board has decided to pick up the tab. I want to express my gratitude to both the board and Pierson Principal Brittany Carriero, who during these challenging times have been behind us 100 percent, all the way."

Luppi also praised Pierson faculty member Keith Holden for the way he has directed the students in this show. "He's always amazing, the kids genuinely respond to him," she said.

Now retired, Melissa Luppi is that unique dedicated educator whose life revolves around the well-being of the students and the community. She said the last year has been one of the most challenging for her - "as it has been for everyone. Yet, I hope we are able to somehow do a musical safely in the spring. The kids are wonderful, talented, and these shows are important to them, the school and the community. I am planning on doing the spring musical. I am an optimist."

For more information, visit www.sagharborschools.org.

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