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Student Produced Show: Ride The Cyclone

After the success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, people will soon have the pleasure of seeing Ride the Cyclone on June 4th and 5th. This student-produced musical tells the story of six teens who tragically die in a roller coaster accident at an amusement park. They find themselves in a liminal space where Karnak, a fortune-telling machine, holds the power to resurrect only one of them. As they discuss their lives and identities, they must decide who will be granted this privilege. The story also features a mysterious contestant who was found decapitated and remains unrecognized by anyone. The musical incorporates a wide range of music styles, including hip hop and rock. Based on the performance I witnessed by the cast at SOhO, I am confident that the music will be thoroughly enjoyable. It promises to be an exhilarating experience, and I hope to see you there. Let’s hear from those involved behind the scenes and what they have to say about the show and themselves.

Director and Producer – Kyle Fitton

Kyle Fitton is co-directing and co-producing Ride the Cyclone alongside Hattie Ugoretz. Fitton’s journey in theater dates back to his early days in kindergarten when he vied for the best roles in class plays. He is also involved with the theater company Lights Up!, where he has contributed to various musical productions. “I really love theater so much,” Fitton expressed. This project marks his first foray into directing, which he finds both highly enjoyable and simultaneously stressful. Fitton was drawn to this particular show due to its unique blend of humor despite its dark subject matter.

“It’s got a very scrappy type of humor that I think is really enjoyable,” he remarked. He also mentioned that student-directed shows have been staged in previous years, and they selected Ride the Cyclone prior to its recent surge in popularity on TikTok. The fact that it features a small cast of only ten people is an added advantage, making it more manageable for a student production.

Among the characters, Fitton feels a strong connection to Mischa, a Ukrainian teenager with a gangster persona. Despite acknowledging the cringe factor, Fitton finds joy in seeing this character express himself, share his past, and discuss his love for his internet girlfriend from Ukraine whom he has never met. The overall message of the show resonates deeply with Fitton—the importance of embracing life while it lasts, appreciating what one has, and accepting others for who they are. “Underneath a lot of the comedy and dark humor, there is a really nice message about just recognizing what you had, and even if you were dealt some rough cards, being able to find the enjoyment and light out of that,” Fitton explained.

Witnessing the dances and vocals come together and seeing the show take shape on stage has brought a profound sense of fulfillment to Fitton. While he would love to continue participating in theater during the summer, he recognizes the need to work extensively to afford college. “It’s whether or not I have time,” he acknowledged. SBCC is preparing a production of Guys and Dolls, and Fitton may explore potential involvement in that project. However, one challenge they face with Ride the Cyclone is the portrayal of a disabled character, which has sparked controversy due to mistreatment of a disabled actor in a previous professional production. The original version includes the disabled character, and although future versions are removing that aspect, Fitton and the team are committed to preserving the representation of a disabled character as it holds significance to them. They are navigating the casting of an able-bodied person for the role with great sensitivity.

Co-Director and Choreographer – Hattie Ugoretz

Hattie Ugoretz is the co-director and choreographer for the musical. She has participated in a lot of theater, both at Santa Barbara High School and at her other schools, as well as throughout the community. What initially made this show appeal to her was the fact that it has a smaller cast and only one act, thus it would be more feasible considering the little time left for them. After looking into it more, she really liked how fun and goofy the show was. “It was nice and light, but also had some nice morals as well,” Ugoretz said.  Her favorite character is Karnak, because he engages with both the audience and other performers, and because he is just a fun role that shapes the production. Out of all things in the show, what appeals to Ugoretz the most is the uniqueness of each character and how their differences shape a beautiful world. “It’s really interesting to find our version of that world as we move along with the production.” Ugoretz is most proud of how much they’ve already been able to create as a group between both the students on production for the show as well as the cast and student crew members. “It’s been really collaborative just right off the bat, and I think that’s going to lead to a really fun production.” Next year, she will go to USC for a major in theater, and is also hoping to double major in math.

Actress – Kamile Zaunius – Ocean O’Connell

Kamile Zaunius describes herself as a very outgoing person. “I am very loud, and I noticed that ever since I was very young, and I think that’s mostly why I got into theater, because I was such a ball of energy.” Zaunius did theater camps when she was younger over the summer and realized that she really enjoyed that, and had also been doing a lot of dance. She figured she may want to try this out later in life, and began doing it in junior high, and has continued since then. Zaunius is playing Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg, who is mean in the beginning. She is valedictorian, top of her class and is kind of a perfectionist. She is still flawed. She does have a character arc though. Her favorite character is her own because of how it shows how such a mean person can be redeemed. Zaunius loves how the different songs highlight the individuality of the characters in the show, and also really enjoys dancing to the different songs. She is very proud of herself and all of her fellow cast mates for picking these things up so quickly, considering the short amount of time available for a student production. Zaunius really likes how people can have so much fun and be laid back enough, but still be motivated to do their work. Apart from theater, she doesn’t really see any jobs that she would be enjoying for the rest of her life. 

Actor – Triston Bilodeau – Mechanic

Tristan Bilodeau is playing a background character who is a mechanic. This mechanic is said to be very stiff and robotic. He played John Proctor in The Crucible and Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His favorite character is Mischa because of how funny he is. “He’s Ukrainian, so he’s got a fun little accent,” Bilodeau said. Bilodeau loves the songs for how different and unique they are, so the show has great enthusiasm and energy. He is most proud of the cast having good morale in spite of problems with tech and the set. He plans on going to SBCC for the free two years and then transferring to UCLA, hopefully getting into medicine and becoming a psychiatrist. Bilodeau definitely thinks he will be taking some theater. He won’t be majoring in it, but he definitely wants it to be a part of his life for the foreseeable future. 

Actress – Izzy Fabio – Constance Blackwood

Izzy Fabio plays Constance Blackwood, who is very shy, but also has a hidden depth to her. “She sees a lot but doesn’t say a lot, but when she finally discovers herself, she realizes that it’s ok to be herself and express herself,” Fabio said. She has been part of Theatre since she was a child, and has done it throughout junior high and high school. Fabio has partook in almost every show produced here at SBHS other than the radio plays during COVID. She, like Fitton and Bilodaeu, favors Mischa for being a bad-boy while being soft inside, and she really likes his song. She likes the ending of the show more than anything else because of its message that we’re more alike than we are different and should all celebrate each other and come together and recognize that they all had lives. She is proud of the theater community and their camaraderie. Fabio wants to get involved in things pertaining to the sciences and art.

Actress – Sofia Rakowski – Karnak 

Sofia Rakowski is playing Karnak and is also on the costume team. Rakowski has been in shows since the first grade, and started doing tech and costuming in her freshman year. She described Karnak as “kind of this all-knowing mechanical guy, but also very introspective and a little bit mournful because he deals with death all the time, but also he’s able to be light-hearted and make jokes and have fun, and I think he’s a very good foil to the kids bombastic personalities.” Her favorite character is Noel due to his flamboyant personality. This is coupled with the juxtaposition between his internal life with Monique, his fantasy, and how dull his actual life is but how much he just escapes into his imagination. “He is a very interesting character,” Rakowski said. Her favorite things regarding this show are how it tackles a very heavy topic but in a lighthearted way that also tows the line and is not disrespectful, and also how it is a dark comedy that manages to be very heartfelt, and has a lot to say about the process of mourning and being ok with your own death and also accepting the amount of life you have and not being overly worried about doing too much with your life or not doing enough. She really likes the message and also the fun music. She is really proud of how the vocals sound, and the vocal power of her cast mates, and her “silly little character voice.” Next year, she will be at Cal Poly to study as a theater major with an emphasis on technical theater, because she wants to go into theater stage management or production design, professionally. Over the summer, she might be doing boxtails acting intensive or possibly improv shows with Lights Up!

Costume Director – Presley Villa

Presley Villa is the costume director for the show. She says much of the decision making regarding costumes has kind of been done for her with the script, but she still has a lot of creative liberty and she really loves the costume department. “A lot of the choreography relies on the costumes, we have some projections that go on dresses and a lot of lighting stuff, so it’s my job to work with the technical directors as well,” Villa said. She was the costume director for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and has also done shows like Carrie, and a couple other student-directed productions. Villa says it’s definitely busy, but she really loves the student produced shows, and is really excited to take part in it, considering it will also be her last show

Ride The Cyclone poster. [Image credit: Lena Szerwo]


  • Sebastian Salcido

    Sebastian Meza-Salcido is a senior here at Santa Barbara High School and a writer for The Forge. He is glad to return to this publication after 2 long years since he was a sophomore in 2021. His aim through this platform is to inform the community about upcoming arts and entertainment, and offer his point of view surrounding social and political affairs, nationally and locally. Outside of journalism, he also enjoys drawing and talking with friends.

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