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The masks are off for the GBHS Variety Show
Great Bend High School choir students rehearse for the Variety Show, which will be Saturday and Sunday in the GBHS Auditorium. After a year of pandemic restrictions, the show is in-person and open to the public. - photo by Susan Thacker

If you want to go

The Variety Show can be seen at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Great Bend High School Auditorium. Tickets are $10, available at the door. The GBHS Jazz Band will perform 30 minutes prior to each show (7 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday).

Advance tickets are available in the choir room at GBHS from 7:30-8 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., and 3-3:30 p.m. daily through Friday. Patrons can choose their seats and pay by cash or personal check.

On with the show! The return of the Great Bend Variety Show this Saturday and Sunday has GBHS choir students excited, instructor Susan Stambaugh said. 

A year of pandemic restrictions has been frustrating, but last week the school district lifted its mask mandate.

“This year has been crazy,” Stambaugh said Monday during a break in rehearsals for the upcoming production. At first, dots were placed on auditorium seats that could be used, nine feet apart, and students also maintained their distance and wore masks as they rehearsed. It was difficult to harmonize but the students made a commitment to perform with the mindset that at some point the masks could be removed.

That meant they were preparing for a show that might not happen, but Stambaugh told them if they weren’t prepared, it wouldn’t matter if masks were on or not.

“It’s something like writing with a pen that doesn’t have ink. You’re going through the motions, you know what you wrote, but it’s hampered – that’s what it’s like when you’re singing with a mask and social distancing. But the hard work really paid off,” she said. 

“We only had one concert all year, although we prepared all year.” There was no Christmas concert. They had a Vespers concert, but it wasn’t open to the public. In April they got to have a spring concert, but the Kansas State High School Activities Association limited the audience to four parents per student.

If the mask mandate hadn’t been lifted, Stambaugh said she would have canceled the Variety Show. But after spring break, protocols began to change. Three weeks ago, choir students began working on the Variety Show. The KSHSAA eased its restrictions, so now choir students can invite their friends to the show. Finnally, last Friday the school board said masks were no longer required.

The show is filled with musical pieces, skits and quick jokes. Stambaugh directs the show and Lori Stickney is the accompanist.

There are still some precautions in place for the Variety Show. The auditorium is sprayed with a disinfecting aerosol between rehearsals and performances. The seating capacity has been reduced as well.

“We decided to group chairs in advance so we have sets of (two or) four seats together with one vacant seat on either side of it. People can find a seat that fits their group,” she said. Naturally, audience members are free to wear masks if they choose.

Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door, but they can also be purchased in advance at the high school choir room. They started selling tickets Monday morning.

If not for the pandemic, choir students would have been eligible to take a trip to Washington, D.C., this spring. That’s one more experience lost to COVID-19 – as was last year’s Variety Show.

That means this year’s Variety Show will be one the students aren’t likely to forget, Stambaugh said.

“I feel like they have a sense of gratitude, and they’re finding joy in each other.”