When high school theater productions were shut down last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Riverside High School students Gabi David and Ryder Quiggle were in the midst of preparing for a production of “Beauty and the Beast,” the school’s annual spring musical.

After the abrupt closure of schools and months of staying busy with distance learning and socially-distanced activities, the two began to wonder what was next for their nascent theatre careers.

After all, before the shutdown they were accustomed to doing as many as 10 shows a year.

In November, when it became apparent that their high school theatre department would not be doing any productions this school year, the two high school juniors took matters into their own hands and teamed up to create and direct their own show.

Among hundreds of scripts available online the duo found one they thought would be a good fit— “The Other Room,” written by Ariadne Blayde.

The 30-minute story — with seven cast members — is about a brilliant teenage boy with Autism and his interactions with Lily, a popular classmate.

The two develop a connection and his struggles are revealed in the form of four other characters.

“This story had the best message to raise awareness about Autism,” David said. “April is Autism Awareness Month and we wanted to take the opportunity to talk about something important.”

The next step was to secure a venue.

They reached out to Nathan Stockman, catering manager at Baker’s Crust Artisan Kitchen in Ashburn, who helped them set up with a production space in the restaurant.

“This pandemic has been really hard for theatre,” Quiggle said. “We are so grateful for his help and it wouldn’t have been possible without him.”

Whereas David is normally involved on the acting side, Quiggle is the behind-the-scenes technical guru who does lighting and sound – so they feel they are well-matched as co-directors.

Auditions were submitted by video in December and they have been rehearsing both virtually and in-person in preparation for the show, which is slated for April 11 and 12 at 7 p.m.

The cast includes Sarah Lehner, Aaron Eichenlaub, Chrissy Martin, Aadi Sinha, Brady Rufo, Madison Whitbeck and Nihar Kandarpa with a technical crew that includes Naina Sharma, Evan Stuart and Caden Barley.

“Everyone is really talented and it’s an amazing and tight-knit cast,” David said, adding that the cast is comprised of mostly Riverside High School students with one hailing from Independence High School.

In-person seats for the show are sold out, but virtual tickets are available.

All of the proceeds will benefit the Nicholas Center in New York, a nonprofit that provides daily support to people with Autism.

Looking ahead, Quiggle and David are anticipating upcoming productions with Infinite Arts and Studio Bleu and they hope this is the beginning of more opportunities on stage.

For now, the two said they are enjoying this experience in new roles.

“This is my first time directing; I’m really excited for the show,” Quiggle said.For more information on virtual tickets, visit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zv6povkno3KacVojfDJzgXSNLpzbzVnyWYijqH88kfs/mobilebasic

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