It’s not quite live theater, and it’s not quite a movie: The pandemic has transformed the way St. Clair College musical theater students present their last shows of the school year .
This semester, instead of performing in front of a live audience, students are to record themselves individually in front of the camera by singing, dancing and playing. The footage will then be edited and layered with music to create a movie-like theater performance – a college first.
This is just one of the ways the college has adapted to COVID-19 – another being that students in the program participate in a hybrid model of classroom and virtual learning.
As interesting and unique as the process is, some students find it difficult not to be able to physically attend classes all the time as they feel like they are losing the opportunity to connect with their classmates, which they believe is. crucial in their field.
âThere’s a bit of a lack of spark,â said Kozmo Sammartino, a sophomore musical theater student, who takes most of his classes online.
WATCH: Theater students at St. Clair College edit their last performance
âNot being able to be in the play doesn’t have the same sense of connection with other people and it’s harder to feel that ‘liveliness’ that happens with live theater, which is, you know, it’s a a lot of itâ¦ it’s live, âhe said.
Sammartino finds himself less motivated to learn and practice at home.
“Being in front of a screen a lotâ¦ I really had to reinforce that creativity in me. You are not able to have the external stimulus to be in the performance space, to have your teacher right there”, Sammartino said.
âIt’s easier to log out, easier to log out when you’re online. And so I really had toâ¦ rekindle my imagination and really double down and stay focused,â he said.
Jakob Sonnenberg, another sophomore musical theater student at the college, shares the same sentiment.
âAs a musical theater student we are used to being together in the same space and not having to wear a mask. So it was definitely very difficult,â he said.
âThe reason I do traditional theater, musical theater, instead of loving acting for film and television, is because I like the idea that it’s never the same. always the possibility of making more choices.â¦ So it’s been a little weird with this situation, âhe said.
Adapt to the times
Despite the far from ideal circumstances, the students say they feel lucky to still be able to perform and look forward to the final production, which is a requirement for the program.
Katherine Kaszas, artistic director of the program, said the challenge of adapting to the times is something that artists and theater practitioners are trained for.
âWe like obstacles and in fact we are educatedâ¦ as well as the students. They are well enough prepared to find solutions to problems. And that is what it is. Itâs just a challenge,â a- she declared. .
âIt’s almost like a COVID movie, a COVID form of presenting these things where it’s actually a number of people self-checking in at home and then presenting their performances in that ubiquitous square of faces that you see. so often now when you look at these things online, âshe said.
Kaszas said that this kind of production is not really a movie because there is no team that records the students.
Sonnenberg said he was fortunate to have had some camera training before signing up for the program, which has come in handy now that he has to record himself playing. He compares the experience to reading for an auto-cassette audition.
âI basically have my own setup in my house,â he explained. “I learned to use my phone as a webcam, then connect to Zoom so the director can record it.”
He said he was excited to return to the theater, which recently opened to a small number of students to rehearse and learn choreography for the production.
But Kaszas said the show was not open to the public.
âWe can’t really make a great old movie and sell it. So we were given permission to work with, with our students and invite people to reveal our final performances to us. And that’s about it. that we’re going to be able to do, I’m afraid, this year, âshe said.
How in-person classes work during the pandemic
Regarding in-person classes, Kaszas said students are divided into small groups – those Sonnenberg calls âstudent bubblesâ. Students wear masks indoors and outdoors, but some lessons, such as singing, can only be done virtually.
Sonnenberg said he was grateful for student bubbles as it allows him to socialize, which he says he was deprived of during the pandemic.
âI was very happy that our faculty and the school worked very hard to put in place different security protocols so that we could at least have contact with our classmates and colleagues,â he said.
âAnd that was very important to me. It was difficult and I know it was difficult for some of my classmates as well, but for me personally it was the light at the end of a dark tunnel. “
He said he hoped to resume full classes in person by the next school year and perform in front of a live audience again.