Augusta Chizzle Wizzle president asks school board to allow lifting of mask on stage
AUGUSTA — The Augusta School Board listened to Cony High School senior Grace Kirk as she implored the board Wednesday night to allow performers in the upcoming Chizzle Wizzle stage production to remove their masks, in contradiction to the rules currently established under the universal mask mandate adopted by Augusta Public Schools.
The emotional demand came as schools and communities across the country begin to lift their mask mandates or debate their continued use amid a downward trend in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Augusta Public Schools Superintendent Jim Anastasio noted that area superintendents are meeting with Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, on Thursday to discuss what masking might look like for schools in the next two weeks. But at this point, he said, there are still “unknowns” around the future of masking in schools.
Kirk, the President of Chizzle Wizzle Production, spoke during public comments and told the board about the challenges that production is having and is anticipating the March 15 production night, due to the blackout mandate.
Kirk said wearing masks will “significantly inhibit” the quality of the production, which this year will be the show’s 131st year in production. His request to the board was only for those on stage during production and dress rehearsal and for those backstage masking would still be required.
“The crucial facial expressions for the roles will be non-existent, the smiles on our faces as we take our final bows, and the photos of our greatest high school memory won’t even have our faces on them,” Kirk said. “Not to mention the technical difficulties around the microphones in the masks.”
The show is split into two halves: Olio, which consists of comedy, dance, and singing acts, and The Showcase, which consists of a full performance, solo performances, and a duet. According to producer Lindsey Morin, 70 students are in the production this year, including 50 at the Olio, 2o in the choir and four dancers.
Morin said attendance is “lower than ever, but the talent is there,” but the goal is for the rest of the student body, who have never seen a show before, to see it and participate in it year-round. next.
Chizzle Wizzle is a community tradition and began as a fundraiser for the football team in the late 1890s. Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the oldest running variety show of the country was virtual and was held in May.
The theme of the show this year is “Let the Games Begin”.
“Through countless large-scale conflicts, Chizzle Wizzle persevered through world wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, another recession, and the list goes on, and nonetheless, tradition prevailed. This year is pivotal for rebuilding Chizzle Wizzle,” Kirk said.
By production choice, 90% of the students involved chose to participate in pool testing for COVID-19 and on top of that, Kirk said, the school is 90% vaccinated.
Board chair Amanda Olson said the board “hears” Kirk, but since the board voted to make universal masking mandatory in schools, it is “outside the board’s jurisdiction to make a change because that’s the procedure”. She suggested that Kirk work with the administration on “potential workarounds or things to do to make it as easy as possible.”
Superintendent Anastasio referenced the CDC’s Universal Masking Section and the Maine Department of Education‘s Standard Operating Procedures. If extracurricular activities and athletics remove their masks, the school is no longer considered a universal masking school and should contact research.
Anastasio and Cony headmaster Kim Silsby gave an update on fairness, as athletes during the winter sports season had to wear masks during competitions, contrary to what most students would have liked.
“It would be nice if they (the masks) go away in a week or two if they decide the masks are no longer necessary or optional and there’s a lot of talk about it in the county,” Anastasio said. . “It would solve this problem, but there is no guarantee that it would happen.”
Per board policy, board members cannot do any further research on the topic during public comment and questions to Kirk must be directed through the Olson.
Board of Education member Kati McCormick suggested students wear see-through masks that are typically worn in situations where facial expression is paramount, but Kirk said the production was on a budget due to the limited performance of the past two years during the pandemic.
“We haven’t been able to generate a lot of revenue from ticket sales and we still won’t do it at half capacity,” Kirk said. “Some of the surrounding productions with larger budgets have mics that go over their heads, over the masks, but our mics go to the side and are stuck to the side of our face… if the mic touches the skin, it will collect feedback. »
Although they are able to have a full production this year, only half the capacity of Cony High School’s auditorium will be allowed, per COVID-19 guidelines, or about 45o people. Tickets will go on sale from March 7 and at that time all visitors to Cony will be required to wear a mask. The show itself will take place March 15-18 at 7 p.m., with tickets on sale at 5:30 p.m. on show nights.