How did you run rehearsals?
Rehearsals were done online via WebEx to reduce time where the cast was all together in a large group. We only had one rehearsal with the full cast in the Performing Arts Center. For this rehearsal, students maintained social distancing and wore masks. We also recorded audio of them performing the show at this rehearsal.
How could they film with their masks off?
This was one of the largest hurdles for us, and we went through great lengths to protect the safety of our students and school employees. Some of the scenes were performed and filmed by students from their homes. For the majority of scenes, students filmed alone on the stage of the Performing Arts Center. The PAC was repurposed and rewired to have the director viewing the actor’s performance backstage, giving notes through a microphone. The technical director ran audio recordings from a separate location; key crew students were placed in the lighting booth and other separate rooms. Everyone wore headsets to maintain communication while keeping within social-distancing requirements. When scenes needed to be reset, actors would put their masks back on so the crew and directors could join them safely in the theatre.
They are all on the screen at the same time - how did you get the timing right?
Acting alone in a big theatre with only one camera is incredibly challenging. During live theatre performances, actors feed off the energy and responses from the audience. They also react and respond to the other actors performing with them on stage. To help with consistent timing and to guide our actors, we recorded a run-through of our show before filming. The audio from this was edited to cut out individual character lines; these edited recordings were pushed out through the PAC speakers while the actors filmed their individual scenes. This is how the actors kept the same pacing and even “reacted” to other character lines throughout their performances.
How are they spinning!?
The spinning rock platform was originally part of last year’s contest play set that we reused. The top is foamboard covered in “dutchmanning” – cloth that had been soaked in a mixture of glue and water – and then painted to make it look like stone. Under that we bolted a plywood base through the foam and attached an industrial-strength Lazy Susan in the middle of it (leftover from a past production of The Miracle Worker). Around that we set fixed casters in a circle and then wrapped that in a rounded frame of 2x4s, with a plywood ring that extended a few inches beyond. So, we basically made a very wide spool around the bottom. To the spool we looped 50 feet of ¼-inch steel cable. We then hooked the end of that cable up to a 400-lb winch, which we were then able to operate from an isolated spot. We fixed the Lazy Susan to the stage floor, fixed the winch to a weighted sled, pressed the big button on the winch remote, and away it went! The total cost was about $80 for the winch; the rest we had laying around the set production shop.
Did he mention Animal Crossing?
One of the big draws for us to do this particular play was that this past summer, the playwright adapted his original script to fit the needs of a virtual performance. Since the script was written during the pandemic, the timely references were built in!
For long fans of OLTP, She Kills Monsters might sound familiar. In fact, our school’s theater program won the IHSA State Championship for our Group Interpretation adaption of the original She Kills Monsters script in 2014!
How did you put it all together?
Due to the way we filmed, hours of long footage needed to be reviewed and edited to choose the final performances. Students were given different video recordings to make rough edits of each take. From there, the director reviewed each take to determine what would be used for the final show. Here we ran into an issue - the audio from our video recordings did not come out as clear as we wanted. So, mirroring what is done in the movie business, our technical director worked with individual actors to audio dub over their video performances. This work was all imported into Adobe Premiere Pro and edited by the director and technical director to create the final product.