While some may see wearing masks or standing six feet apart as hindrances to artmaking, one St. Louis theatre company has welcomed the new norms to reignite their production methods.
After hosting virtual auditions, rehearsing for hours over Zoom, and then recording scenes in small physically-distanced groups, Ignite Theatre Company will present “A Chorus Line (High School Edition),” online Aug. 26, through Aug. 30. The 5-day streaming event marks a first for the organization.
Adopting new methods
Originally scheduled as a live event at .ZACK Theatre for the beginning of August, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization quickly pivoted to host virtual auditions in May and Zoom rehearsals through July.
Brionna Lacy, 16, who plays Richie Walters in “A Chorus Line (HSE),” has been with the company for almost two years. She said one of the biggest differences between this production and previous ones was connecting with her fellow cast members.
“We do a lot of character and cast bonding to mesh with each other, and we didn’t really have the opportunity to do that this time around,” Lacy said. “It’s been difficult being apart from directors, too … and coming to rehearsal and not being able to connect with them has been hard.”
With new methods, came new challenges, as well as new learning opportunities for the students of Ignite. Lacy, said she unexpectedly enjoyed learning about film production. “I’ve always been interested in the filming aspect of theatre, it’s really cool to dive into that sort of thing,” she said.
Daphne Kraushaar, 16, who plays Al DeLuca in “A Chorus Line (HSE),” said she also liked the “move-making” side of this production.”It’s not like we’re performing a typical musical with cameras … it’s more like we go scene-by-scene and get different shot angles,” Kraushaar explained.
Instead of filming a single show like previous Ignite productions, this musical was filmed in several takes by a local volunteer videographer, Jorgen Pedersen, and then edited together.
“That’s one of the benefits of filming — if one of us makes a mistake, we can do it again,” Kraushaar said. “And also, different clips can overlap, so if someone makes a mistake, we can put in a clip of someone else … we can sort of ‘Band-Aid’ for each other.”
However, filming the production in scenes wasn’t the only difference.“We’re dancing and singing, but almost never at the same time, which is one of the biggest differences with this [production],” Kraushaar said. “For example, we are recording our voices first … and then they are put together to make one track. Then we will dance to that track, lip-synching to ourselves … some of the dialogue is even [pre-recorded].”
Staying safe and smart, six-feet apart
With the stage blocked into six-foot-squares, the student actors adhered to strict physical-distancing rules while performing, using camera techniques to make them appear closer together. In addition to following all Kranzberg Arts Foundation COVID-19 mitigation policies, the theatre company outlined its own strategy that includes working in groups of 10 or fewer at one time.
“I think that the directors and everyone have done a good job of keeping the rules in place to keep everyone safe,” Kraushaar said, noting that she felt very comfortable during the production process.
“We’re really thankful for the guidance of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation with the reopening and mitigation policies to feel really confident that we’re creating art in the safest way possible,” Managing Director Kimberly Kavanagh said. “We’re [also] grateful for the opportunity to innovate and still be able to not only create something but also be an outlet for students during such an unsure time.”
“A Chorus Line (High School Edition)” presented by Ignite Theatre Company will stream online Aug. 26, through Aug. 29, at 7 pm, and Aug. 30 at 2 pm. Tickets are available through ShowTix4U. This performance is rated PG-13, and parental guidance is recommended.
“This is the first time we will not know what the final product will look like,” Kavanagh said. “I’ll be so proud of the kids no matter what the final product looks like because they worked so hard at something new.”
For more information about Ignite Theatre Company, visit www.ignitewithus.org.