The winter musical is always an anticipated event as students, with the help of staff, work together to stage award-winning performances. However, this year’s musical, A Chorus Line—about a group of Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line—is set to stream online in the beginning of June after having been repeatedly postponed due to COVID restrictions. With rehearsals taking place virtually for most of the season, there remains the question of what this year’s musical will look like and how students and staff will execute the performance.
Junior Alexa Farah, who has been a member of the theater program for the past three years, explained that the musical has been a much different experience from what the cast and crew are used to, and that “it’s definitely been a struggle to get energy and morale up in rehearsals.” With all their rehearsals taking place via Zoom, Farah mentioned how having personal or intimate scenes with a partner has become difficult, and the confusion of unmuting and dealing with internet connection issues makes the whole process much harder.
Putting together the musical has not only been hard on the cast: director Susan Van Buskirk has had her share of difficulties throughout the process as well. “I’m used to viewing the entire stage as my canvas, and creating stage pictures with up to 45 people,” she said. “Now the work is much more focused on individuals, their reactions, and manipulating Zoom boxes on a screen.”
While there have been challenges to virtual rehearsals, Farah said she was able to learn more about the process of filming, such as the importance of camera angles and editing in producing movies. She continues, “I think this experience has grown our love for the stage and live theatre, and our appreciation for those working in film,” as this production will be more like “a film than a performance.”
After months of rehearsing virtually for A Chorus Line, the cast was finally able to rehearse together in person on April 26 while still following COVID safety procedures, including wearing masks and distancing from one another.
Despite the unorthodox year, the cast and crew continue to practice the traditions that are such a big part of the musical experience. A typical tradition is when each first-year member of the theater program is paired with a senior, who acts as a mentor to the newcomer. Mentors share stories of when they first felt they belonged in the program, and bring a costume or prop to share with their mentee, or “little.” As Van Buskirk said, “They literally hand down a piece of our history.” Now, Van Burskirk says the cast and crew still maintain this tradition through Zoom and email.
Reflecting on this new experience, Van Buskirk stated, “we’ve managed to create a sense of company spirit in the digital world. And I think the fact that we’ve all gone through the challenges of producing a virtual show together has bonded us in a way we never would have imagined.”
As of now, A Chorus Line is set to be filmed outside on campus and will be live streamed on June 4 and 5 at 7 p.m., and on June 6 at 2 p.m.
Senior Sophie Ferrara wishes she could have performed live for her fourth and final year as a part of NVOT’s theater program, but mentioned how it is important to “make the most of this bizarre, unique year” and to have the opportunity to bring A Chorus Line to the stage – on Zoom.