For those dreaming of a quick jaunt to the tropics, look no further than East Hampton High School’s auditorium, where “South Pacific” will be staged this weekend. The Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, which unfolds on a faraway island during World War II, has been a perennial favorite since first produced on Broadway in 1949.
But as students act, sing, and dance along to now-famous show tunes like “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” it will mark the last musical in Serena Seacat’s 12-year-long career as the school district’s theater director.
Each year, Ms. Seacat has supervised two productions at the high school along with one at the East Hampton Middle School and another at the John M. Marshall Elementary School. “It’s been a blessing to work with the talent out here on the East End,” she said during Tuesday night’s “South Pacific” rehearsal. “To pass onto them my passion for the performing arts, to watch them come out of their shells and explore the magic of theater — I’ll never forget it.”
Ms. Seacat said she will be leaving the East End at the end of the school year for a position as “artistic director for a new state-of-the-art theater in the Midwest.” While her successor has yet to be named, Ms. Seacat endorsed Debbie Mansir, who has worked as her assistant director for the past decade.
Three performances are scheduled this weekend — on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general audiences and $5 for students and senior citizens. Senior citizens have also been invited to sign up at the East Hampton Senior Citizens Center for a 1 p.m. lunch preceding Sunday’s matinee.
While Ms. Seacat has directed “South Pacific” at other venues, she was eager to bring the musical back to East Hampton High School. “The music is eternal. The message is profound,” she said. “And even though it was written way back, it’s so appropriate, even for today.” Ms. Mansir added, “It’s all about tolerance and prejudice and overcoming it.”
For several members of the “South Pacific” cast, Ms. Seacat has served as a steady and abiding presence, and, for most of her students, she is known simply as Serena.
Josh LeClerc, now a high school junior, has worked on productions with Ms. Seacat every year since he was in the fifth grade. “It’s one of my favorite parts of high school. It’s really given me a sense of community,” Josh said. “She’s taught me everything I know about acting, about how to be an actor, and how to deliver my lines.”
Josh, along with the cast of about 75 students, has attended rehearsals for at least 12 hours each week since the start of January.
“It’s a lot of work,” conceded Josh, who will play Luther Billis in this weekend’s production. “But it’s worth it in the end.”
Deyo Trowbridge, a senior, will play Lt. Joseph Cable. It’s his second year under Ms. Seacat’s tutelage. “Serena and Ms. Mansir have inspired me to do more in my life after high school than they’ll ever be able to know,” he said. “If I’m having a bad day, Serena always makes me feel like it’s all going to be okay.”
As students took to the stage on Tuesday night, with microphones taped to their cheeks, Ms. Seacat looked wistful. She described the experience as “bittersweet.”
“It’s such a passion of mine, and these kids have given me everything,” she said. “They’re really like my grandchildren. “