Theatre department showcases virtual play

Drama students filmed their scenes of the spring production to finish out the year

Junior+Kali+Fichtl+introduces+the+virtual+play%2C+The+Brothers+Grimm+Spectaculathon.+The+two+hour+video+can+be+found+on+the+theatre%27s+YouTube+Channel+at+MW+Drama

Photo courtesy of MW Drama

Junior Kali Fichtl introduces the virtual play, The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon. The two hour video can be found on the theatre's YouTube Channel at MW Drama

Edison Geiler, MWHS Wildcat News Editor-in-Chief

Members of the Drama department gathered on a Zoom call to view their spring production – by Don Zolidis – on April 30th. Instead of a live performance or table-read, the troupe opted for an edited video with all of the actors’ scenes, allowing them to watch the finished product together.

After school closed on March 12th, troupe director Brooke Phillips tried figuring out ways the play could continue. Eventually, she decided on a virtual opening night with all 60 cast and crew members viewing the play in its entirety via Zoom. 

We had a really exciting week of rehearsal before Spring Break and got a lot done and could tell that the characters were going to be really funny and the show was going to be a blast,” Phillips said. “It was a real bummer to find out that we weren’t going to be able to perform it. The cast and crew [received] the Zoom code, and I shared my screen and sound while we watched it together and commented on it in the group chat. It was a fun celebration of this hilarious show as well as some closure of getting to perform it.”

Initially, the news of school closing shocked members of the department, especially seniors who knew Brothers Grimm would be their last high school production.

“It was hard to imagine that the play wouldn’t happen because I had been preparing and looking forward to it all year,” senior Abigail Forsman said. “As everything started to cancel, I was thinking ‘There’s no way we can cancel this play, it’s never happened before.’”

Forsman, originally the stage manager for the production, ended up volunteering to edit the two hour video once the department decided on continuing the presentation of the show. Along with her school work from her classes, she dedicated most of her free time tying together all of the actors’ vignettes. The project took Forsman a full week to complete, coming with many challenges she had to navigate.

“One of the challenges was definitely trying to adjust the timing of the lines to make sure it’s as realistic as possible, and stays within the normal play time frame, without having the clips or speech feel choppy,” Forsman said. “It took a long time of re-watching the same scenes over and over to make sure the timing felt right. My family definitely thought I was crazy for spending all this time putting it together when I’m going to be graduating in a couple weeks.”

Likewise, the actors of the production faced different challenges. Without any props or costumes provided by the department – and no scene partners, they had to be creative about presenting their scenes.

Photo courtesy of MW Drama
Anderson, acting as a talking fish, pleads for his scene partner not to beat him over the head again. Prior to the recording, he memorized all his lines and practiced his scenes. “I was in the cast and I had three characters. So my responsibilities were to memorize my lines, make my own costumes, get my own props and to take a video of me acting out my part,” Anderson said.

“Some challenges were having to come up with your own character without any feedback or advice from directors and also having to make your own costumes and props at your house and being very resourceful,” senior Dylan Anderson said. “Especially because as an actor you never watch yourself act and you never really watch the show yourself because you’re always either backstage or on stage.”

When it came time to view the play, actors and tech members alike joined the Zoom to watch the final production of the year. For all the seniors, watching this show was a special way to cap off their high school theatre careers at Millard West.

“I was very heartbroken,” Anderson said. “Because as a senior and someone who’s been involved in every single show, I’ve always thought of what my last show was going to be like and how I was going to take it all in. But with that being taken away from me, it made me take a step back and look at what I’ve done with the department and how I’ve made a difference. But it also is something very unique and special because we are the first Millard West virtual play ever to happen and it’s something that we are going to have online forever.”

Though Millard West Theatre’s show season concluded with Brothers Grimm, anyone will be able to view the production on their YouTube Channel, MW Drama. The video is entitled, “MW Theatre Presents: The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon by Don Zolidis (Pandemic Digital Version)” for anyone wanting to view the finished product for free.