Students at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School have documented their perspectives of the COVID-19 pandemic with an original production, “Pandemic Parables: Our Stories, Our Experiences,” which will be performed at the school Jan. 27 and 28. The two-act play was written by teacher and theater director Catherine Grant in collaboration with student scholars.
“In these last two years, our school community has been through a lot together,” said Grant, who also teaches leadership and is the chair of the business department and entrepreneurship at Cardinal Ritter. “Our school family has experienced some great highs and some very deep lows. As I’m working with my students, we talked about how important it was to document this important time in our lifetime.”
The vignettes incorporate dialogue, art, dance, song and spoken words focused on several themes, including a comparative look at life before the pandemic and now; the effects of wearing masks; the virtual learning experience via Zoom; and the personal decision of whether or not to receive the vaccine.
“Everybody has a story to tell about this pandemic,” Grant said. “We talked about how it was best to write it down or share it with others so you don’t let it consume you. I told them, you have seen more in these last two years than some people have in a lifetime.”
Senior Asia Brantley’s mother, who works in health care, tested positive for COVID early in the pandemic, before the vaccine was available. Her mother was out of work for about a month and later was diagnosed with another health issue after she had recovered from the virus.
“When she caught COVID, it was really scary for us,” she said. “She was out of work for about a month, and she was in the hospital. Pre-COVID, she was doing pretty well. It was weird to see the change in my mom and our household and how things were operating for our family.”
Other scenes include “Strange Fruit,” which examines the effects of other major events within the African-American community in the midst of the pandemic, such as the killing of George Floyd; and “Isis, Isis, Our City is in Crisis,” which shares the experiences of Cardinal Ritter students and alumni affected by gun violence, including 2020 graduate Isis Mahr, who was returning home from work at an elderly care facility Oct. 17 when she was shot and killed.
Senior Kenneth White III is approaching the one-year anniversary of when he was shot multiple times by random gunfire while driving on Interstate 70. He was among a group of students who organized an initiative to counter gun violence, including a march and rally held in December in memory of Isis.
“It impacted me in a good way, and that’s why I am determined to continue this movement — it’s not a moment,” he said. Kenneth and his fellow students have joined with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Cardinal Ritter Prep leadership and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden to continue their efforts.
Jaylen Jackson’s parents both contracted COVID, also early in the pandemic, which had an effect on how they conducted their lives outside of home. “Now we’re more cautious and wear our masks the right way,” Jaylen said. The senior became sick with the virus several weeks ago, which helped him to better understand what his parents had previously experienced. “In quarantine, you have a lot of time to think, and you have the opportunity look at things in a different way,” he said. “Like they say, isn’t that kind of strange?”
The final scene, “I Am that I Am,” highlights the faith perspective. Similar to Jesus telling parables as a way of illustrating divine truths of the faith, the students’ perspectives from the pandemic show glimpses of the importance of relying on faith in challenging moments.
“God will be everything we need Him to be, and He will navigate us through this,” Grant said. “We have to remember that this didn’t catch God by surprise. God has brought us through other journeys, and He will do the same here. We wanted to find a way to share our stories but also share our faith through it all.”
>> Pandemic Parables
Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School’s Theater Department will perform an original production, “Pandemic Parables: Our Stories, Our Experiences.”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Jan. 27 and 28
WHERE: The Commons at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School, 701 N. Spring Ave. in St. Louis
MORE INFO: Tickets are $5 at the door. Masks are required.