Anyone who has ever performed in a musical, play, recital or even a talent show knows how much work goes in to producing art for the public to enjoy. Entertaining the masses doesn’t happen overnight. There is the pre-planning stage where the creative and production teams gather and decide what the show will look, sound, and feel like to an audience. Then comes the rehearsal process where actors dive deeply into their roles, analyzing their characters and learning dialogue and choreography that drives the plot of the story. It’s work, and it challenges the imagination and creativity of everyone involved. Throw a global pandemic in the mix and your normal challenges have now been put into question. Health first, everything else follows.
This was our mantra for this summer’s STAR Academy musical production of The Addams Family and STAR Academy Cabaret: Songs from the Silver Screen. The administrative team at Gulfshore Playhouse endured months of planning for the safety of our students and staff. The question we asked ourselves was how can we safely and successfully produce on stage during a time when Broadway has shut its doors and almost every theatre company has turned to virtual programs? With lengthy conversations, attention to CDC guidelines, and understanding all risks involved, we established strict protocols for our students and staff to follow during the four weeks of our STAR Academy summer program.
In addition to wearing face masks and face shields, we structured the majority of rehearsals so that our cast of 17 students were split into small groups that consisted of no more than 9 students per group. Again, imagine learning a dance or choral music separately from the rest of the cast knowing at some point, you will join in full ranks and finally be able to see and hear what you’ve been rehearsing as a whole group. It’s beyond what anyone could have foreseen if ever we were to imagine a world in which we couldn’t sing, dance or act together. But this is our new normal, at least for now.
And so, the show will go on because we planned flawlessly and executed flexibly. It took many troubleshooting conversations and daily schedule changes to get where we needed to be at the end of four weeks. Our overall vision for STAR Academy came to fruition and we owe that to not only our creative and production teams, but also to our students who were faced with novel challenges and met them head on, with partially concealed faces and hearts full of passion and love for theatre.