Moments before the musical begins, performers are usually rushing to get their hair done, sharing last minute snacks, and practicing vocal exercises together. Senior Mia Vander Zwaag fondly reflects on a tradition called “Pass the Power” in which all the actors would stand in a circle holding hands, sharing what they wanted to accomplish before giving each other last minute hugs. Unfortunately, this tradition is not a possibility anymore.
Originally set to premiere in the fall, the school musical Mamma Mia! Has had to adjust to a multitude of restrictions due to COVID-19. The musical follows a woman preparing a wedding for her daughter, who secretly invites three men from her mother’s past. She hopes to meet her real father and have him escort her down the aisle on her big day.
To put on this performance, everyone involved in the musical feels they are going to have to step out of their comfort zones. While many of the students now have experience acting with masks on, singing is a whole new challenge. Everyone has to rely on their eyes to communicate the emotions that are now shielded by their masks.
“It has been strange singing with masks on. It changes the way that your voice projects and muffles your sound a lot,” Vander Zwaag said. “It’s also hard getting the right amount of air in if you are supposed to sing a high note or yell loud.”
It isn’t just the actors struggling to adjust. Other crew members and the set designers have also had to modify the way they work. Departments have become significantly smaller due to conflicts in schedules with spring sports and students learning from home.
As the chief of the make-up team, senior Bella Amato has taken on the challenge of doing students’ makeup with masks and distance.
Make-up artists must consistently wash their hands, sanitize brushes, have wipes on them at all times, and keep masks on. In an effort to stop cross-contamination, the same artists are assigned to the same actors everytime.
To make masks less noticeable, the make-up department will be ordering skin-toned cloths and might possibly design them. Amato admits that while COVID restrictions have been an inconvenience, they have forced her team to be creative in new ways.
“This gave the department an extra push to make sure everyone was sanitary and everything in the theater department wss clean,” Amato said. “I think it’s a really good wake-up call that we have these precautions always.”
Some groups like the props department haven’t seen significant changes in their roles but instead have struggled with the loss of social interaction that makes the theatre community a tight-knit group.
“One big change is that, as a crew, we don’t get to do much bonding due to the risk of spreading COVID,” senior Becca Humpus said. “It would be nice to hang out and get to know my new techies.”
Despite the difficulties, every department in the musical said they are just as determined to put on a high-quality performance to end the year. Their opening is scheduled for the last weekend of April, and they hope that COVID will be manageable enough to have larger, in-person performances.
Whether or not this happens, however, everyone involved is still excited to be a part of the musical.
“The process of putting together a show and incorporating everyone’s creative abilities is incredibly rewarding,” drama teacher Michelle Wiliamson said. “The success of our students putting together a professional looking production and learning about theatre, makes me so proud.”