SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood High School Drama Club's spring production of the musical "Once on This Island" was scheduled to be performed the week the coronavirus pandemic shut down the Spotswood School District. The four-run performance had to be canceled and the cast and crew had one final performance together on March 12. It was a difficult one.

"After sitting with the cast and crew before the dress rehearsal, the directors stated that there was a high probability that we would not have a show next week," Spotswood High School Drama and Communication Arts teacher Annie Raczko explained. "We talked and shared, then wiped our tears and the troupers gave the performance of their lives and performed with grace and tenacity. The directors could not be more proud of them."

Eight seniors took their final bows at the March 12 dress rehearsal including Emily Bell, Jenna Citro, Sheliza Dollete, Sabrina Farrell, Lindsey Ferreri, Georgia Kartelias, Matthew Tyson and Delaney Yaniak.

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Bell has been in three Spotswood High School productions and has enjoyed the memories made through her time with the drama club.

"Emily is a natural storyteller with a distinct curiosity, using her instincts to make bold choices onstage as an actor," Raczko said of Bell.

Citro has spent the past four years involved in the high school's drama club. She's also appeared in community theater productions since middle school.

"Jenna demonstrates talent and tenacity onstage as an actor, and offstage as a student leader," Raczko said of Citro. "Whether she is a lead role: Olive (Spelling Bee), James (James and the Giant Peach), TiMoune (Once on this Island) or a supporting role: Silly Girl/Napkin (Beauty and the Beast) , Jenna transforms fully into her character to tell a compelling story onstage."

This is the first year Dollete has been a part of the drama club's crew. Dollete joined the Spotswood High School Troupers senior year as a scenic artist. Previously, Dollete was a part of the Appleby School's and Memorial Middle School's theatrical productions.

"Sheliza joined the drama club this year as a scenic artist, creating texture and depth in our boardwalk that was to be the featured set piece in 'Once On This Island'," Raczko said of Dollete.

Farrell was talked into joining the drama club her freshman year by Citro and ended up loving it. She credits the Spotswood Troupers for helping her come out of her shell.

"Sabrina is a dedicated member of the drama club, and is a valuable member of the program," Raczko said of Farrell. "Whether she is singing on stage or in her car for a Virtual Concert, Sabrina is a natural storyteller."

Ferreri has been a three-year member of the Spotswood High School Drama Club. She has also been a part of the high school's annual One-Act competition every fall. The One-Act competition is a part of SHS' annual Spirit Week festivities leading up to Homecoming.

"Lindsey has a fierce passion for theater and it shows in her performances on the Spotswood stage," Raczko said of Ferreri. "She is going to be an amazing educator."

Kartelias brought her enthusiasm for dance to the Spotswood Drama Club her junior year. She was honored to be the dance captain for this year's production of "Once on This Island."

"Despite joining the drama club as a junior, Georgia has left an indelible mark as a leader, especially with her dancing ability as the dance captain this year," Raczko said of Kartelias.

Tyson enjoys reading, writing poetry, drawing and painting. He joined the drama club as a scenic artist his senior year.

"Matthew joined the drama club this year as a scenic artist, lending his dedication and enthusiasm for painting to the set pieces and props that were to be featured in 'Once On This Island,'" Raczko said of Tyson.

Yaniak developed a love for theater after being involved in Appleby's fifth grade play. She took her blossoming passion to the Memorial Middle School Drama Club and on to the high school.

"Delaney went from Olive’s Mom (Spelling Bee), to Mrs. Potts (Beauty and the Beast) to Mama Euralie (Once on this Island)," Yaniak said. "The fact that each role she’s played is maternal speaks to her caring and compassionate nature that make her a vital member of the organization."

Raczko will recognize Bell, Citro, Dollete, Farrell, Ferreri, Kartelias, Tyson and Yaniak along with the other members of the Spotswood High School Troupers on June 11 at their Virtual Drama Club Awards Banquet. The Troupers were also featured in Paper Mill Playhouse's Rising Star Honors YouTube video. The video recognizes high school drama club's throughout the Garden State that did not get to take a bow this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.