By: Sara Higley ‘21
Eli Harvey ‘19 stares at the 500 family members and friends in the audience of the Z theatre. The bright lights shine in her face. As she begins to sing her last song, Sister Act, all eyes are on her. She thinks about all of her amazing memories that have come with being in Sister Act. She begins to cry.
“The song Sister Act has a lot of connotations about Sisterhood which is one of the things Regis Jesuit likes to push a lot and it really became prevalent to me in this moment. This was my last song and play here at Regis with my sisters,” Harvey said.
On November 4, Sister Act was performed for, what they thought was, the last time in the Z Theatre. It was directed by Aldo Pantoja ‘01 and this was the first time it was performed at a high school.
Sister Act took, altogether, about ten weeks to create. There were eight weeks of rehearsal and a few weeks before that when people started designing the set, costumes, and props. In this little of time, the actors, crew, band, director, and everybody in between, managed to create one of the most momentous plays Regis Jesuit has ever had.
Eli Harvey was the lead role of Sister Act, Dolores. Doloros, originally played by Whoopi Goldberg, is the African American lead role of the well known movie, Sister Act.
The audition process for the lead role was not as strenuous as previous theatre programs. Mr. Pantoja, the director, knew the main character had to be African American, as it was in the original film, and also had to demonstrate the character of Dolores. “Once we saw Eli Harvey on stage and be able to embody the character, the sass and the vocal range of Doloros it was a no-brainer,” explains Mr. Pantoja.
Eli has been a very frequent part of Regis theatre since she was a freshman. She was a part of beauty and the beast, Cyrano, Arsenic and Old Lace, Fiddler on the Roof, and Romeo and Juliet at Regis. Outside of Regis, she was apart of A Midsummers Night Dream and Cinderella.
“I’ve always been a performance oriented kid. When I was younger I would dress up as different Disney princesses and pretend I was them. I’ve always played pretend and dress up and theatre became and outlet in a sense.”
Although Eli has been apart of many plays here at Regis Jesuit, she says that Sister Act has been her all-time favorite because of the atmosphere between the actors, crew, and band has been the best that she’s seen, she was the lead, and it was such a momentous play.
Sister Act is the first musical that Regis Jesuit has done where the lead role is African American and it is the first time, ever, that a high school has performed it. It has pushed Regis Jesuit to achieve diverse roles which is very important, Eli says, because it encourages others to participate not only in theatre, but any extra circular, no matter what skin color they are. Harvey also says diversifying can minimize the standards people think they need to live up to and decrease their bad thoughts about themselves.
“When you don’t see yourself in a large group of people, you start asking yourself why you are the way you are and you start comparing yourself to the people that are represented in the large group,” Eli says. “You start thinking you are ugly, not good enough, or don’t live up to those standards which is obviously really unhealthy.”
Mr. Pantoja says that diversity encourages others to participate and rise self esteem.
“To give opportunities to students of color that want to enter the arts and be able to cast appropriately encourages more students of color to participate. If we continue to produce shows that have lead roles that are all white, then what kind of message are we sending?” Mr. Pantoja says.
Sabrina Miklos ‘21 says that diversity is also important in friendships.
“I think it’s important to be really close with people that have different opinions or just differences in general from you. I think it’s important to see different perspectives of everything.”
Not only is there a significance about diversity aspect of this play, there is also a significance that our community, Regis Jesuit, is performing it.
“We are making fun of something that is ours because there’s a lot of Catholic jokes in it. I think there’s a lot of public schools that may feel like they can’t do that because they’re making fun of something that isn’t theirs,” explains Mr. Pantoja, the director of Sister Act. “I think one of the number one rules of comedy is that we need to be able to make fun of ourselves before we make fun of something else.
Extracurriculars can teach students, and others, many valuable life lesson that they will not only use in their academic life but their life after school as well. In theatre, Mr. Pantoja emphasizes one of the most important lessons we can understand, how to fail. The theatre program has a few sayings such as “bold but cold” or “strong but wrong” to help the students understand that failing is important and not necessarily bad, but almost good.
“A lot of the times when we make a mistake we feel bad about ourselves, we are hard on ourselves. And when we’re not used to making these mistakes, and almost celebrating them, then it’s harder for us when there’s a real life situation here’re we do make a mistake,” explains Mr. Pantoja.
He strives for this to be the number one things in theatre so that it becomes prevalent to the students that even though you might have failed, you still have a chance to do it again.
Diversity in every extracurricular is also very important, and theatre is striving for it.
In Broadway, diversity can even be an issue because many ideas of characters are white.
“All of the ideas of who the main character is, especially for an actress, is mostly a white women. It is really hard for any person of color to really obtain any type of lead role, especially because of how elitist it is,” Eli states.
However, Regis Jesuit theatre is trying to stop this elitist view of theatre and achieve more diverse roles.
Not only can diversity in extracurriculars be improved, it but it can be improved everywhere, even at Regis Jesuit High School. Instead of grouping everyone as the same, we should instead find the differences and love each other because of them, Eli explained.
“Everyone comes from a different background and the important part is to recognize those differences and to say because you are different I care about you, I am able to understand you, I am able to give empathy and not just say we are not different, we are one and the same because that totally erases someone else’s difference and their uniqueness,” states Eli.
Now, because of the actor’s, crew’s, pit’s, and the director’s hard work and talent and the momentous decision of the musical Sister Act, they are performed at the Bellco theatre on December 7th. Everyone has an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and excitement.
“It’s just and overwhelming thank you on my part for everybody’s support since the beginning of Sister Act and now that we [had] this opportunity at the Bellco theatre,” Mr. Pantoja says, “I’m just full of gratitude for everybody that is pitching in.
Sister Act has been one of the most historic plays from Regis Jesuit and everyone in it, including our community who watched it, made it even more special.