The show must go on: How performing arts programs at CCHS are adapting to COVID-19
FeaturesGeneral Features November 9, 2020 Admin
It seems the world is in an intermission. Many things have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, and everyone seems to be waiting for something to happen, waiting for the second act to start.
But for CCHS’s performing arts programs, the curtain has not come down. The chorus, band and theatre programs have learned to adapt to the current global health crisis.
At first glance, the chorus at CCHS seems limited by the pandemic, as singing is a high-risk activity. At school, the chorus is prohibited from singing inside of their classroom.
“There are certain things we can do, and certain things we can’t,” Beginner and Advanced Chorus teacher Anna Lotocky said. “In the classroom, whoever is with me [can] hum, we can talk, we can still stretch, we can still do all of our warm-ups with our bodies, [but] we just can’t sing in the room.”
The class is allowed to sing outside with masks and proper social distancing, but at the cost of losing connection with the students that decided to continue virtual learning.
Since neither students nor teachers can sing in school, the chorus had to come up with new ways to learn their music together.
Normally, Lotocky would divide her students into voice parts such as altos and tenors, then each group would make their way to the piano to drill their part of the song with her. Now, she must record each voice part and send them to her students. Then, the students must practice and record their part to send to her for grading.
“There’s a lot of things we cannot do, so we are trying to focus on what we can do.”Beginner and Advanced Chorus teacher Anna Lotocky
Although effective, this new method of learning is not always easy; instead, it sometimes complicates already tough songs.
“If we are doing [a song] that is in a language that isn’t English, I have to record it [before I get to school] so they can see me moving my mouth because you don’t know how to pronounce things if you don’t see the person’s mouth moving as well,” Lotocky said.
In the face of these hardships, however, Lotocky and the students in the chorus are continuing to make and study music.
“There’s a lot of things we cannot do, so we are trying to focus on what we can do,” Lotocky said. “We are analyzing what we are doing, we are working on theory, making sure that we know how to read our music the best we can, vocabulary, all these things that we normally do, but we are just focusing because that’s what we can do.”
They are still learning and rehearsing for future performances and coming closer as a chorus, despite the distance.
“Even though many of us have never met each other, we still act like family and it’s a welcoming class to be in,” senior Zhia Smith said.
CCHS’s band program, led by director Jason Cochrac, is following a similar strategy to chorus, where band students record pieces of music, which are then submitted to Cochrac for a grade.
Students who have chosen to learn in-person are banned from playing their instrument inside, but administration and the school district are currently working on obtaining the proper personal protective (PPE) equipment for them.
With the football season recently underway, the Sound of Pride (SOP) Marching Band is hoping to put a small band in the stadium. The band has started rehearsing over Zoom to prepare for their first in-person performance since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“We are limited on what we can do musically over the computer, but I think everyone is pretty excited that we are getting back into football season and marching band mode for now.”Band director Jason Cochrac
“We are doing visual training, and some music training [in our Zoom rehearsals],” Cochrac said. “We are limited on what we can do musically over the computer, but I think everyone is pretty excited that we are getting back into football season and marching band mode for now.”
In these virtual rehearsals, band members are finally able to see each other and practice together after months of uncertainty about the status of their marching band season.
“We have had quite a few rehearsals […] to make sure we are still working hard,” junior Danielle Rothschild said. “I like still being able to see the Sound of Pride family, even though they appear on a screen.”
Troupe 0784, the drama club at CCHS, has also gone largely virtual. However, they are still trying to keep the joy of the stage alive by including themes and games into their meetings and creating a big-little program, where upperclassmen mentor new members.
They have also been working on an entirely virtual show called “Insomniac Cybersociety,” about a group of sleepless teens making friends and self-discoveries in an online chatroom. Since September, the cast of the show has been rehearsing and recording their performance of the one-act play over Zoom and it will be live-streamed to an audience on November 6.
Lucia Deus, CCHS theatre department director and Troupe 0784 sponsor, is embracing this new virtual stage as a learning experience for both her and her students.
“[Performing virtually] kind of allowed us to venture into the world of film and screen performance,” theatre department director and Troupe 0784 sponsor Lucia Deus said. “We’ve found new ways of communicating and new ways of acting within this screen.”
“[Performing virtually] kind of allowed us to venture into the world of film and screen performance.”Theatre department director and Troupe 0784 sponsor Lucia Deus
Actors are not the only ones that had to adapt; the show’s technical crew members were forced to come up with clever virtual solutions as well.
“All of the tech[nical crew] heads [of “Insomniac Cybersociety”] had to come up with unconventional ways to do their part for the show,” Troupe 0784 and stage manager for “Insomniac Cybersociety” President Rachel Goldberg said. “For example, our makeup artist/designer made a YouTube tutorial for how the actors should put on their makeup and what they should use. Usually, we’d have our makeup crew put the makeup on the actors, or teach them face-to-face, but we can’t do that anymore. All of [the technical] crew [members] had to come up with new ways to do everything that we do.”
Troupe 0784 is continuing to perform and hopes to produce more shows as the school year continues. They are continuing to support the many theatre classes offered at CCHS.
“We are moving forward,” Deus said. “We are moving forward with creativity. We are moving forward with making theatre accessible, not only to our students but to our school, […] [with] creating the magic of the theatre.”
The performing arts programs at CCHS are not letting the pandemic stand in the way of their spotlight; they are choosing to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity.
“We’ve always been adaptable, as a performing arts community,” Goldberg said. “We’re just an adaptable community that is making it work and we’ve always made it work no matter the situation and this is just the next situation. There will be more situations [in the future], and we will continue to thrive through them.”
Even during a pandemic, the old saying rings true: the show must go on.
Illustration by Sofie Kahlig