Middle School Musical Adapts to Changes to Satisfy Covid Protocols

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Elyse LaPorta

With COVID-19 at one of its highest peaks right now, the upcoming musical, Frozen Jr., faces significant challenges to reach its audience. The show is in the midst of rehearsal and planning this month and facing a lot of challenges. Some include mask-wearing at all times on stage, pre-recording songs that actors must lip-sync to, and the obvious one, no in-person audience. Mr. Fry, drama and film teacher and leading director of the musical this year, said, “this is a show that we are never going to forget for the rest of our lives because it’s so different.”

The usual process of auditions is one of the most important parts of the musical as a whole. While auditions usually run during the week after school, all auditions were conducted over FlipGrid this year. Students had to record three videos—an introduction, a monologue, and a recorded song. For callbacks, the selected actors and actresses had to oblige to many protocols leaving their auditions rather odd. For one, the singing audition operated outside by the dumpsters to comply with the “no singing indoors” rule. Students also had to stay socially distanced during monologues while their masks blocked necessary facial expressions. 

Along with auditions, rehearsals had to adjust to COVID precautions and protocols as well. 8th grader Reeves Wood, who plays lead character Anna in Frozen Jr., says, “rehearsals run quicker due to a decreased cast, but we also have to work around keeping all of the cast six feet apart at all times on stage, and that can be difficult to work around.” Additionally, the backstage crew has been taken away completely, so the cast has had to tackle crew jobs as well, “The backstage crew is normally in charge of putting on and off set pieces, helping with costume changes, and helping with mics.” says 8th grader Leila Wehbi, a student on tech crew. 

Although the cast has more to do, rehearsals run quicker because of the decreased number of actors. However, constant mask-wearing caused inconveniences for the cast. A usual rehearsal would consist of practicing facial expressions and acting through emotive body language. With masks, all facial expressions remain blocked, and the cast has become forced to act with emotion in different ways. Sam Montag, who has been in many of Westminster’s productions in the past and is an actor in this year’s musical, says, “I think [rehearsals are] just a different feeling. I feel like it is mainly similar except everyone has to be six feet apart, and you have to use bigger facial expressions more because of a mask.” While COVID has changed many parts of the process that brings the show together, the cast and crew agree that it is all very much worth it. 

Obviously, the online streaming of Frozen Jr. causes the largest differences for the production. Most of the cast and crew agree that streaming the show doesn’t compare to performing for an audience: “I prefer performing live, and so does a lot of the cast, I believe,” says Wood. “There’s a rush of adrenaline you feel before you go on stage that helps you perform, but when you record, you lose that adrenaline because you have the ability to do each scene over again when you mess up.” 

Despite losing the excitement and nerves that can boost one’s performance, streaming allows for retakes and a version of perfection. 8th grade actress Camila Hernandez says “I find that recording allows for perfection because if you mess up you can tediously record it again,” though she likewise enjoys performing for an audience instead. Additionally, streaming requires editing and multiple takes which can take longer, and the tech crew has the additiponal job of editing. Wehbi says “some pros to streaming are that we can edit the footage, and […] we have a smaller crew, so that’s been a little different.” Fry says there are definite pros and cons to streaming the show: “Streaming the show brings up a whole new set of challenges that [people] may [not] think about.” Overall, the entire department believes that streaming is a temporary necessity that will end as soon as possible and safe again.

Ultimately, with many changes, the cast, crew, and directors say they have enjoyed the process and creating the show, and even though things were different, they are happy to have been apart of it, “I’m hopeful that it turns out well and no matter what happens I had a blast working on the show with the kids and it’s just such a great show to be apart of,” says Fry.