During this time of lockdown and virtual learning, our ASH teachers have had to come up with some pretty creative ways to carry out their lessons. Even more so when it comes to our co-curricular activities, that are very much embedded in physically being together in the same space. Ms. Hurd, our middle school Dynamic Theater and Mindfulness teacher, is the drama director for this year’s musical Fame Jr. She shared with us how the students have been preparing for the musical and how they are adapting their performance in a time of a global pandemic.
“The middle school musical Fame Jr. (set at a performing arts school in New York in 1984) is going ahead. It is an interesting, exciting, innovative and sometimes slightly overwhelming journey. We have a fabulous adult production team and a high school choreographer. Everyone on the team brings their own skills, talents and experience to this new adventure. We were able to hold ‘live’ auditions in December and we have a cast of 30 actors, 9 dancers, 30 transitions actors, plus a middle school tech and costume team of 20 students.
We decided to take an alternative approach to this year’s musical by making a film of the musical rather than a live stage performance. We also added our transition actors – ‘extras’ who will create linking scenes – instead of set changes on the traditional stage. They will move, dance and act to join scenes and musical numbers. To accommodate social distancing when singing we decided to record all the musical numbers first as safely as possible, then lip-sync to our own singing of these musical numbers whilst dancing on location in ASH. We have been scouting out locations and are looking forward to bringing numbers such as the classic song ‘Fame’ to life in the cafeteria, or the gym, M3, or outside, or in a classroom, or on the stairs. Lip-syncing should mean we can dance safely as we will not be singing live. Acting only scenes will also be filmed on location.
Now, due to the latest lockdown, we are rehearsing on Google Meets. The costume team have been researching ways actors can create 1980s costumes and the production team are looking at camera angles and discussing ways to make scenes work if these have to be filmed by student actors at home. We are always ready with a plan ‘B’ and a plan ‘C’ depending what happens in the coming days or weeks. The students’ creativity and flexibility as things constantly change is amazing.
The final performance film may well be a hybrid of clips filmed at home, videos filmed online in Google Meets and scenes filmed at school. Whatever form the final film has, it will be innovative, creative and very different from a traditional stage performance. We look forward to sharing the screening with the ASH community some time in May. And parents of cast members, watch out – student actors may well be rummaging in your wardrobes looking for 1980s costumes!”
And proof that it’s always best to have multiple plans up your sleeve in the time of a pandemic, just before the release of this story, Ms. Hurd confirmed that in the interest of safety, all scenes would be remotely recorded from home. With some scenes being individually recorded by the students and their camera people (aka their lovely parents) and other scenes collectively recorded via Google Meets. Ms. Hurd added, “if it is in any way possible later this year we would love to have a concert performance of some of the Fame Jr. songs and scenes at school." So watch this space. We can’t wait to see the creativity of this ever evolving production.