Hello Broadway world!
Twenty-four months. Seven hundred and fifty days. Seventeen thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine hours agoArizona has declared a state of emergency regarding COVID-19.
However, for me, the pandemic didn’t begin until March 13, when an email arrived announcing the extension of spring break that would blur the lines between school and summer and second grade. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our world. But, during these seven hundred and fifty days, we have managed to persevere, and I am proud to announce that this week, my school will present Mama Mia! the first musical since the world shut down.
In March 2020, I was a freshman in high school. My friends and I piled into a bus and drove to Disneyland, unaware of the upcoming closure. These memories are my favorite parts of the first year: riding the Grizzly River Run until our clothes are soaked, receiving a rose from a knight in armor on horseback, watching the Fantasmic fireworks light up the sky in a explosion of colors.
Within days, my school system sent the fatal email:
My theater department was fortunate to present our Spring 2020 musical, Free from all ties, before the school system closed – others weren’t so lucky. Many of my friends and fellow actors had their performances cut short a few days before opening night: “The last musical I was cast in was shut down on the second day of tech week due to the pandemic. So , finally being able to put music on a large scale is something really exciting and fills my heart with joy…” (Junior at SHS).
COVID-19 has blanketed the world in an oppressive shadow, forcing us indoors and alone…but these conflicts would lead to even greater creations: virtual performances via Zoom, Facetime karaoke parties and front-row seats for the best of Broadway from our sofa lounge.
Like the majority of the world, the drama department at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona has adapted to COVID mandates and precautions and so, with copious amounts of hand sanitizer, we decided to perform our first comedy musical since quarantine: Mama Mia! Over the past two months, the cast and crew have worked hard to memorize the music, synchronize the choreography, and bring the beloved characters to life. We had to find a balance between a shared auditorium and busy student schedules. All of our dedication and energy has paid off and we’re ready to bring ABBA’s music to life on Thursday night!
The students and faculty of fine arts at Saguaro High School (SHS) were more than happy to share their experiences in the post-pandemic scene, after being deprived of last year’s musical: “A Puff of ‘fresh air !” (Senior at SHS) and “Different, but exciting at the same time! (Junior to SHS). Students commented on how different performing was without a mask, “but that doesn’t change the quality of the show. It’s going to be a really good show. It’s a lot of fun. It changes the number of hurdles to jump through, but that’s okay to be a very good show all the same…” (Junior at SHS).
One of the musical’s ensemble juniors opened up about his love for ABBA and how, “Mama Mia! It’s something I’ve been attached to since I was five, so finally being able to immerse myself in the film and musical that I grew up loving and dancing with my mom too is hugely exciting for me. The theater has a tradition of inspiring laughter and hard-earned memories; from rocking out to soundtracks with your parents, singing along with the windows rolled down, or listening to the Oscars on Sunday night.
Mr. Tim McCandless, drama teacher at Saguaro High School and director of Mama Mia! reminded the cast and crew to “wear masks as much as possible offstage, have hand sanitizer offstage, and be careful not to sing in too many groups. Before, we didn’t never had to worry about it, but now we do.”
Mrs. GayLin Tutnick, choir teacher at Saguaro High School and Mama Mia!The musical director of , shared that she honestly doesn’t think we’ve “done anything but not allowing real kisses in the romantic scenes! We’ve worked just as hard We trained. We focused. We worked together, failed together, and succeeded together. It’s a wonderful thing to see such a great team effort come together. This music is the music of my teenage years, so I find it particularly rewarding and fun!”.
Ms. Rebecca Egyud, Mama Mia!The Saguaro choreographer and dance teacher at Saguaro High School, spoke of the importance of the “connection between performers” and the difficulties of “relearning what it is to perform in a group…”.
Technology has also changed the performing arts industry. “Before the pandemic, I practiced with flashcards, but now I use Quizlet.com. Everything has gone digital,” remarks a junior from the Mama Mia! to throw. After nearly a year online, students find themselves relearning how to socialize and collaborate. One of the seniors commented on how, “before the pandemic, we kind of took a lot of things for granted: the bonding with the cast and the time we could dedicate to the show. After the pandemic, that made me (and many other people) appreciate the hard work, dedication and time we spend together Right now the entertainment industry is needed more than ever because that’s what I and many others people have been watching during quarantine. As we begin to come out of this pandemic, I think we can all appreciate a little more of the sense of family theater…”
Simply put, “I think, especially after the pandemic, fine art is something that’s needed because theater really helps bring interdisciplinary people together…” (Senior at SHS), and I don’t couldn’t have said it better myself. It won’t be easy to dispel the darkness that COVID-19 has sown across the world, but as we enter the next changing chapter of humanity, we must remember to rekindle our friendships, work, fail and succeed together, to jump over the obstacles thrown in our way, and to make even more memories in this vast world of ours!
So, I say thank you for the music, the memories, and the joyful experience of performing under the stage lights. Come on, Saguaro High School, let’s blow up the house!
Signature – Spencer Wareing