Geneva High theater to put on ‘The Last Lifeboat’ about the sinking of the Titanic

Geneva High School is sure to make a splash with this year’s winter showcase.

In February, the theater department is putting on “The Last Lifeboat,“ a play based on the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. It grapples with the events leading up to the sinking of the Titanic and the aftermath, focusing on how the infamous shipwreck impacted the life of J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, the British shipping line behind the Titanic.

Shaken, the world finds its scapegoat in Ismay, who is forced to undergo trials not only in his home country of England, but the U.S. as well.

Senior Nate Carlson, who is portraying Ismay, says the audience will appreciate the “deeper understanding” the show provides of the businessman. After being persecuted by the media and portrayed in an antagonistic light for so long, “The Last Lifeboat” changes that up and recontextualizes it.

The cast has undergone dialect training to master the European accents featured in the show. Tess Engerman, who plays a young girl on the Titanic named Angela, has enjoyed the challenge of perfecting her English accent and the creative freedom the role has given her, saying “being a little kid is very fun to play.” Tess also discusses the importance of Angela’s role in the life of Ismay, saying her character “really gave him closure” and allowed him to die peacefully.

The show is directed by Jason Fontanetta, the head of the theater department. Fontanetta was first introduced to “The Last Lifeboat“ by a friend, and after reading the script, he was intrigued by the show’s plot, which was “a story associated with the Titanic that not a lot of people know.” He chose to put on the show at Geneva High School because of its short, vignette scene style and the minimalist character changes his cast is required to pull off. “And honestly, everybody loves a Titanic story!”

The tragedy of the Titanic is brought under close scrutiny in “The Last Lifeboat,“ examining the moral dilemmas faced in the final moments before the ship’s sinking and the desperate scramble for blame that follows.

“The Last Lifeboat” has something for everyone, whether it be a story of long-lost love, an action packed race to survival, or an almost satirical look at the U.S. government’s need to involve themselves in foreign affairs. The moral complexity is enthralling and thought-provoking, proving that even in 1912, the world was not so black and white.

Performances of “The Last Lifeboat” will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 2-3, at Geneva High School, 416 McKinley Ave. in Geneva.

Tickets are $10 or $7 for seniors or youth, age 7 or older and available via

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