In March, St. Martin’s Episcopal School will put on their spring musical “We Will Rock You.” After a year of masks, stay-at-home orders, and virtual meetings over Zoom Video Communications for just about everything, Director of Performing Arts Meredith Long-Dieth and Senior Erica Ricci thought about how to safely stage a musical amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
After many years of working in the Solomon Theater together, both Long-Dieth and Ricci have worked tirelessly show after show. Despite all these experiences, nothing could have prepared them for the challenge of putting on a musical within the bounds of a global pandemic.
“We weren’t sure if we could even put on a show safely,” Long-Dieth said. “We had to completely shift the way we plan for shows, as well as our whole process.”
While the fall production of “Twisted Tales of Poe” was performed outdoors as a radio show, the singing involved in a musical raised different considerations.
“We thought about performing ‘We Will Rock You’ outside, but singing is still dangerous,” Long-Dieth said. “We decided to film it like a movie.”
In a time of uncertainty, Long-Dieth’s dedication to putting on a safe and fabulous show is a great comfort to all her actors, especially her seniors.
“You know, with COVID it is really difficult to do our usual type of shows and still follow the necessary protocols,” Ricci said. “Mrs. Dieth is making it her mission to bring that experience back to us and to the audience, while keeping everyone safe and healthy.”
Despite everyone’s best efforts, most students agree that the thrill of working together on a sports team, in a classroom, or on stage is being with your friends. Ricci shared how that has impacted the rehearsal experience for the musical.
“It's definitely heartbreaking to me,” Ricci stated. “I have to do my role virtually due to my family being at high-risk, and I wish things were different almost every day. I miss my theater family very much, and it's not the same without them!”
This year especially, students involved in activities miss bonding with one another, none more than the senior class.
“Usually, I am able to connect with my castmates of any age, but due to COVID, I am only able to see them on my screen,” Ricci said. “It makes me even sadder to think about how, since this is my senior year, I would have led circle-ups and other things … I have been a part of this community since my freshman year, and it devastates me how everything has turned out.”
This past year, St. Martin’s students missed their last dances, senior nights on the field, graduation on the stage, and now, student actors have no last chance to take a final curtain call. From a faculty standpoint, Long-Dieth is also not immune to the challenges these special conditions present.
“Well, directing anything is pretty challenging at the moment,” Long-Dieth said. “Non-musicals are easier. Musicals have so many moving parts, and it takes much more time to put them together. Musicals require extra rehearsal time to learn music and choreography.”
Without a stage to work on, every member of this production is trying their best to come together to put on a great performance, and it is certain to be one they will not forget.
Like most things in a pandemic year, the musical production “We Will Rock You” will be anything but orthodox, but changing things up has been the running theme of a post-COVID-19 world.
“We have never done anything like this before,” Ricci said. “But I think it is a great idea considering our current situation.”