Many school clubs have been put on hold for this year or have attempted to schedule Zoom meetings in order to stay safe. Although some groups, like sports, have been able to meet in person, the drama club is part of the vast majority that is remote. In the fall, drama club was set to perform The Crucible outdoors and socially distanced, but of course, due to the coronavirus, it was cancelled. This winter, the club decided to perform Urinetown: The Musical, which was meant to go on in May of 2020 before being cancelled at the beginning of the quarantine. Instead of an in-person staging, the musical has to be performed online to follow COVID restrictions. Initially, this idea seemed very strange and caused many to ask the question, “how on Earth is a musical over Zoom supposed to work?”
Over the past two months, the cast and crew of Urinetown has been working to answer this question. In November, Music Theater International, a licensing company for many popular musicals, made remote licensing a possibility. The show was able to be pre-recorded over Zoom and then edited together for scenes and visuals during songs. Actors recorded themselves singing the songs individually and the tracks would then be edited together. Don’t worry, the cast will not be trying to sing together live over Zoom.
Urinetown is not exempt from the issues with technology that plague everyday Zoom calls. When an actor’s microphone was delayed or the audio was garbled, there had to be a way to work around it. Sometimes this meant refilming certain scenes on smaller calls to have a higher chance of running smoothly, or just accepting that some lag was inevitable. These changes slowed the rehearsal process down, but were not detrimental. Of course, with no stage, blocking and choreography was limited. Actors tried to be creative and find new opportunities that came with filming. Working with just one camera instead of a widespread audience are very different, but they both have their strengths.
Technology problems weren’t the only difficult part. Senior Ian Wanger, who plays Mr. McQueen, shared his experience. “For me the hardest part was spacing. I had a lot of moving parts and props, so I had to set up my recording area so that everything was reachable at the exact moment I needed it, and that nothing was in the way.” This was definitely a struggle many of the actors faced. Though you could your camera off, there was no backstage, no props table, no dressing rooms. Everything had to be accessible in order to run straight through the show. This couldn’t be done just anywhere, the cast had to set up in front of a blank wall and find direct lighting. As a member of the cast, I can attest to the difficulty of meeting these requirements. I was sitting on a small box leaned up against the wall and had a short table in front of me to hold my computer and a lamp. It was pretty crowded and required some assembling every runthrough, but in the end, it was worth it.
Though producing a musical over Zoom was certainly a challenge, it was a memorable experience. It provided an opportunity to reunite with old friends from the drama club and meet new members, just in a different way from previous years. Logging on to rehearsal and seeing people I hadn’t spoken to in months, even though I used to see them everyday, made me glad that we had a show.
If you’d like to support the drama club and see a Zoom musical for yourself, come see Urinetown: the Musical on February 5th and 6th at 7 PM. Only one ticket needs to be purchased for each device/household and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.