collage of performing arts

Performing Arts in the Time of COVID

Adapting the High School Performing Arts Program

ANC Performing Arts–like all high school programs–thrives on human connection and creating art to share with live audiences. As the 2020 school year approached, it became increasingly obvious that we would have to radically change our processes and products in order to be able to offer any performing arts this year at all. One of those changes was turning our fall play and traditional performing arts concert into pre-recorded videos, which were presented at a drive-in event in the parking lot of the Mitchell Performing Arts Center. Read below about how each of our departments was able to offer students meaningful experiences. 

kids talking via Zoom

Baird Kistner on the fall play: “Our traditional Christmas play was moved to November and transformed to a completely virtual rehearsal process to be performed over Zoom. While distance directing is not ideal, we were able to adapt to our current reality and offer a theatrical experience for our students. Students were not able to interact in the same physical space, but we were able to focus more on the nuances of their individual characters. And some enjoyed the ability to have a prompt script behind the computer camera! I learned a lot throughout this process: this new technology humbled me, it made me abandon my old tricks and try to create new ones on the fly–in short, it forced me to adapt. I am appreciative of the efforts of the students and teachers who adapted their own technical support of our production, including dropping off needed supplies to students’ homes at the drop of a hat. Everyone came together to create a performance that we will never forget.”

set construction

Chris Waelchli on StageCraft: “It was daunting to think about distance-teaching such a hands-on course that usually produces a physical set for an in-person show. How could we incorporate design and building skills and also support a virtual production? We were able to preserve the usual schedule of reading the script, brainstorming ideas and drawing plot plans. But instead of moving into building set pieces out of wood, we arranged a materials pick up and gave each student foam core board and supplies to build scaled models of each setting. Each of those models was photographed and turned into a virtual background for the actors to use over Zoom.”

students performing dance on stage

Ms. Sarah Gladish on the Dance Team: “Choreographing in this new world seemed daunting, considering we had to try to figure out how to make dances look interesting with students dancing in one place for most of the time. We played with changing costumes, changing music, changing lighting and changing camera angles. We are grateful to the people who helped us with this process including Lori Odhner who made matching masks for all the dancers, Kaia Merrell who designed the lighting, and Shiloh Silverman who filmed the dances. It was a different experience filming the same dances repeatedly without an audience instead of getting one chance to showcase the pieces during live performances, but we are embracing the new reality of filming dances and are excited to run with this format as the year progresses!”

kid playing cello

Nancy Metroka on Instrumental Ensemble:  “Rehearsals were conducted over Zoom when in-person meetings were restricted, using features such as muting to enable playing as a group. The performance was filmed–complete with a drone for aerial shots by Shiloh Silverman–outdoors, masked and 6 feet apart-in front of, instead of inside-the Mitchell Performing Arts Center. With the competent help of Mrs. Lori Odhner's costuming class, the students were able to wear evening clothes attire for the filming. Sound was recorded separately by students at a later time. The final product was put together by Mrs.Tara Smith, who used music software and her expertise to combine the visual and audio tracks. The piece chosen for the performance was “High Hopes" which is appropriately named for these challenging times!”

Lori Odhner on the Costuming class: “The costuming students were given supplies to work from home during the first half of the term. Once we were able to return to the Mitchell Performing Arts Center and the costume collection, students rose to the challenge of creating clothes for the characters while being socially distant. They helped pull together pieces that reflected the parts, and set the mood for our virtual play.”

student searching in bin for a play prop

Naomi Haus-Roth on props: “We were able to have socially-distanced groups of students come in to pull props from our stock as well as work on some of the model set-dressing. Once we were back in person students were able to come by the theater to pick up their bundle of props to use in the Zoom recordings.”

Sarah Cooper Waelchli on backstage work: “While we obviously did not have an actual “backstage” this year, students were able to get involved through sound effects and videography. Junior Levi M. composed much of the score, while Corbin L. did all of the video editing. Benjamin E. also created the pre-show slideshow and a core of students directed cars and helped with the drive-in set up and take down.”

drive-in movie

MPAC Director Naomi Haus-Roth came up with and developed the concept of presenting the concert and play as a drive-in experience. We rented equipment and created guidelines to keep everyone safe but still allow for the shared experience of watching performances together–complete with honking instead of clapping! For those unable to attend the drive-in, we are offering on-demand viewing tickets available online. Click here to purchase!