MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rebecca Shier. And with the first official day of spring not too far off, this week we're all about rebirth and renewal. Now, when you think about renewing something, what comes to mind? Renewing a library book, perhaps, a subscription, how about renewing an old friendship or a promise? Maybe even your own spirits. Well, in this next story, we'll hear about renewing a memory of a young woman whose time was cut tragically short and about the legacy that's been created to keep her memory dramatically alive.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
It's called The Sarah Play in honor of Sarah Emily Metzger, a beloved intern at Maryland's Roundhouse Theater who was killed in a car accident during her freshman year of college in 1999. Now in its 10th year, The Sarah Play is directed, designed, stage managed and performed entirely by local high school students. The play has become part of Roundhouse's regular programming each season and as such, is the only production of its kind in the United States.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Past Sarah plays include "Side Man," "The Fantasticks," "Cyrano" and "Dracula." This year's play is "The Giver," adapted from Lois Lowry's novel about a utopian society where fear, pain and choice don't exist and where a boy named Jonas starts to question the status-quo.
MR. SAM PALCA
It's not fair.
MS. CATHERINE GIDDINGS
It's not fair that nothing has color. If everything's the same, then there aren't any choices. I want to wake up in the morning and decide things, a blue shirt or a red one. I mean, I know it doesn't matter what you wear, but...
It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?
That's Sam Palca as Jonas and Catherine Giddings as the title character, the only member of the community who holds memories of real pain and joy. Sarah Metzger's father, Phil, says "The Giver" was among Sarah's favorite books she read at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School which she attended before heading to the University of Michigan. She was pursuing a double major in English and Theater up in Ann Arbor before she died in January 1999.
MR. PHIL METZGER
This was the beginning of her second semester as a freshman. And she was such an organizer, she'd figured out exactly what courses she was going to take for the next three and a half years to get both of those degrees. She completely plunged into that in the little time she had in college.
Phil says this plunging in was typical of Sarah who brought an unrelenting energy and passion to everything she did especially theater. She produced an entire show on her own, yes?
Yes. In her senior year of high school, she got the venue, it was a community theater up in Germantown. And she got all of the set people, the lighting, the sound, she had rehearsals in the back yard. It was just like, you know, a Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland production, let's go put on a play.
And it's that same can-do attitude that's been infusing the student produced Sarah Play for 10 years now. It all began after Sarah died, when Phil and his wife Lynn as people to send contributions to the Roundhouse Theater in Sarah's memory.
Because she just so loved her experience here and in fact, we had the memorial service for her at the Roundhouse which was then up on Bushy Drive in Wheaton. I think it's sat about 240 people and there were probably 500 or 600 people who came.
Those memorial donations eventually became The Sarah Metzger Memorial Fund which helped support the first Sarah Play, Jim Leonard Jr's, "The Diviners." Do you remember how it felt for you to watch that first Sarah Play?
It was, of course, very mixed feelings. This was something that Sarah would've, you know, as they say, given her eye teeth to do, but it was very much in keeping with the spirit that she had brought to what she did. And so that was poignant and joyful and consoling, all at the same time.
And Bethesda Chevy Chase student Jessie Klueter, who's directing this year's Sarah's Play, describes the experience in her own words...
MS. JESSIE KLUETER
It's Jessie's first time with The Sarah Play.
But it's been kind of on my radar for a while, Sarah actually to my high school, P.C.C. And it's really beautiful to know that something is coming out of her passing. And, you know, every year The Sarah Play grows and more people get to do theater. And I am so grateful that this exists.
Kari Barclay agrees, the Richard Montgomery High School student has worked on three Sarah Play's now as an actor, then a director, now as a lighting designer. He says he loves it, thanks in part to the professional mentors the Roundhouse brings on to lend a hand.
MR. KARI BARCLAY
My mentor is Chris Thompson. And, yeah, she has a huge amount of experience in the field and she's really helping me get the technical elements and sort of design the more conceptual elements.
In the case of "The Giver," without giving too much away here, those elements include contrasting, what Kari calls...
The safe world of this utopian society.
The more dangerous world of emotions and of the memories in the past. And the safe world is all in black and white. This blank canvas of sort of white costumes and such ends with lighting. We gradually get to transition into the land color, which is something beautiful to see.
For Sarah Metzger's father, Phil, the whole experience is beautiful to see even if it does bring about those mixed feelings.
We remember again how much we miss of her and how much she has missed of the opportunity to see her talents and capabilities flourish. It's now 13 years since she died in January of 1999. And to be very blunt, a part of ourselves died after that and we have to just take joy in the memory.
In fact, in a way he says The Sarah Play, has become kind of a living memorial to his daughter especially on opening night when the Metzger family mingles with company members past and present.
And they're very frequently telling us both how appreciative they are of the opportunity and of what a remarkable and often life changing experience it is. And we really feel, in those moments, that Sarah's right there. And that this is where her spirit is most at home.
This year's Sarah Play "The Giver" runs March 23rd through April 1st at the Roundhouse Silver Spring. To learn more and to see photos from past Sarah plays, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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