A unique high school theatre class has found a way to bring its productions to people amid the COVID-19 pandemic without having audiences inside the theatre.
G.W. Graham middle secondary school’s theatre company program is in the middle of producing two one-act plays. Normally the school would open its doors to the public for live theatre, but that’s out of the question right now.
Instead, the students are filming the plays which will be streamed on Twitch.TV.
The added video recording of the productions is the newest element added to the multilayered class.
In the theatre company program, students learn the full gamut of theatre production including directing, acting, producing, sound tech, set design, marketing and more.
“It’s just like a professional theatre company doing a show. The only difference between this and a professional theatre company is the students don’t get paid,” said teacher Damon Fultz.
He says the class is it’s like a three-ring circus with several plays being worked on simultaneously, and his role is the ring master.
“Theatre is the most complex art form ever created by human beings. There’s nothing that even comes close to the complexity of it.”
There are many “moving parts” in theatre to make the production happen – from the work between the actors and director to all the different departments like set design, lights and costumes – making the class is challenging for the teens.
When students were back in class this year, COVID-19 made it even more challenging.
This school year is made up of eight of five-week long classes at G.W. Graham. The kids take only one class at a time, and they’re in that class all day long, five days a week for five straight weeks. The students are not required to wear masks during class as they’re with the same 20 peers all week long.
The pandemic has changed how they do things in class.
“We don’t do a lot of touching. We try to maintain as much of a distance as we can given that this is theatre,” Fultz said.
Even with new protocols in place, he still wanted to get their productions out to the public. After researching and connecting with various professionals in the field, he decided on streaming the plays on Twitch.TV, an online TV network.
“The beginning was a struggle,” Fultz said of The Remembrance Project, the first production they streamed. But soon it was easy.
The first week of December they streamed three one-act plays (each about 10- to 15-minutes log), and the next two half-hour long plays will be streamed Dec. 16 to 18.
The productions were given the green light by the school board and the district, Fultz added.
“We’re well within the rules. It would be very similar to a phys-ed class.”
Students Jessica Lagoutin and Riley Bickley, who have both taken the class in past years, have enjoyed being able to focus all of their energy on the one class for five weeks.
“It’s sort of a blessing because we get to be here all day rather than just one or two hours,” Lagoutin said. “It allows our cast and crew to be more close and tight-knit so we know each other better.”
Over the period of about two weeks, she’s acted in two one-act plays and directed another all at the same time.
And as hard as it is, the students all want to be there.
“It weeds out the people that are taking theatre for extra credit, because before they would show up for an hour and then leave and get credit for it,” Bickley added.
Now that the class has the added experience of filming the productions, in addition to doing everything else, it will bring future productions to a whole new level, Fultz said.
“It’s been a really interesting journey and the future looks bright,” he said.
The plays are free to watch and open to the public. To view the next two G.W. Graham theatre company plays (Dec. 16 to 18), go to twitch.tv/grahamtheatre. The first three productions can be seen below.