Kaitlyn Kennedy walked across stage last week wearing a face mask glimmering from set lights. The audience was packed, but quiet.
“Sometimes they laugh … [but] they don’t really react,” said Kennedy, who is cast in a lead role in Cashmere High School’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” musical. Kennedy is talking about the chairs and tables stacked up where people normally would have sat.
The high school drama crew is remotely streaming its newest musical on March 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. Due to state regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they could not hold a live production.
Students initially started auditioning for the show virtually in November, when Zoom was their only option.
Preparing for this musical has been an act of creativity and flexibility, said Susan Gubsch, Cashmere High School drama teacher and director.
Students worked virtually on their scripts and on character development until they could finally come to in-person learning at school, she said. It started as only five students at a time being allowed to rehearse together.
Those on stage were not able to practice dancing until the end of January, when state regulations allowed for a larger in-person student capacity.
“We were able to dance but no touching, which makes tangoing creative when you’re 6 feet apart,” Gubsch said.
Parents and students are both happy the musical is still happening, even with all the troubles and extra steps involved, she said. “I had parents calling me, ‘Please don’t stop; this is the only time I hear my kid laugh everyday.’”
Some of these new changes include recording the musical in scenes, instead of live in front of an audience and not singing onstage. Students instead created recordings that will be layered into the final video of the musical.
The student-run tech crew, which is just as busy as the cast members downstairs, has been shooting videos of the play to share for its March release dates.
“It’s pretty stressful to have to maneuver around all the lack of things we can do,” said camera operator Rilen Desy.
This is Desy’s first year in the booth. He works a three-camera setup with a joystick used to tilt and zoom while taking live shots.
If someone gets sick then the whole musical would have to be shut down, but so far everyone has been pretty lucky, he said.
Lighting director Maite Madsen said one of the benefits of not having a live show is having unlimited takes.
Students can redo scenes “over and over and over again until we get them right,” she said. It has been a little weird shooting scenes out of order.
“I think it’s been a really cool experience just because you can say like, you know, we’ve done a show during ... a pandemic,” said Madsen.
Those performing on stage are all wearing a clear mask with foam on their chin and nose. The clear masks are not perfect, but at least their expressions can be seen, she said.
“They all kind of have squished noses,” said Gubsch with a chuckle. “But you know, it works … we’re just laughing about it and having fun with it.”