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Brother carries on sister’s legacy at Burbank High’s one-act festival

Brother carries on sister’s legacy at Burbank High’s one-act festival
Burbank High School student Parker Swierczysnki, with performing arts director Donovan Glover, sit with the cast of Parker's sister's self-written one-act play at Burbank High on Monday. Parker's sister Evie was a drama student at the high school who passed away in October. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

If art truly does imitate life, then perhaps no person is better suited to direct the work of former Burbank High School student Evie Swierczynski than her older brother, Parker.

The junior will make his directorial debut Thursday in charge of the comedic short play, “The Best Dentist in Town,” written by Evie Swierczynski a few months before she passed away at the age of 15 from acute myeloid leukemia on Oct. 30.

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The play is one of seven short works, ranging from 10 to 15 minutes long, which will be featured in Burbank High’s one-act festival that will be presented Thursday through Saturday at the school’s Wolfson Auditorium, located at 902 N. 3rd St.

All of the short plays are written, directed and performed by students.

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“Evie was always very goofy, very silly and always a serious person,” Parker Swierczynski said. “She took life seriously, but she never took herself seriously. She always had a fun-loving personality, and this show is really her essence and energy.”

To no surprise then, Evie Swierczynski’s comedic murder mystery is full of jokes and laughs, but also a hearty helping of drama.

“It’s very funny, and it’s very multilayered, like Evie,” Swierczynski said.

Parker Swierczynski had worked on the script with Evie, though he hadn’t seen the final draft.

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“She’d always come to me and have me read proofs of it and always wanted my opinion for characters and stuff,” Swierczynski said. “I always knew the skeleton of it, but I never really read it officially.”

However, the challenge and the joy of bringing Evie’s work to life isn’t only felt by Parker Swierczynski.

“We love Evie, and we’re just happy to be a part of anything that reminds us of her,” said Azat Sayadi, the play’s lead actress. “We can kind of be near her by saying the lines she wrote.”

Fellow actress Abby Griffith added, “It means a lot to do this. It’s a really fun play, and you can see Evie shining through [in it].”

For Burbank High performing arts teacher Donovan Glover, the determination, laughter and camaraderie shared by his students has been uplifting.

Burbank’s last three-day production was the musical “Spamalot,” which ended on Oct. 6.

Since then, many students and some teachers, including Glover, have had difficulty coping with Evie Swierczynski’s passing.

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“There was a lot of darkness and sadness in October,” Glover said. “There were many missed days — I took some days off. It was just a difficult, difficult time because Evie was a shining star.”

Glover added, “To see her legacy onstage, to share her laughter with the community one more time is special. Parker has taken on the challenge, and I believe the audience will enjoy what they see.”

Information about and tickets for the one-act festival can be found at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3741885.

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