Extracurricular Performing Arts continue in remote model



Seniors Emelia Gauch, Stanley Peng and Junior Sophie O’Connell rehearse outside with the cast of Timon of Athens. The outdoor rehearsals have proved extremely effective in allowing the cast to bond, create costumes, build sets and develop their characters in person alongside one another.

When most students sign up for performing arts classes at the high school, they usually imagine that they will be performing to an audience on a stage. However because of the pandemic, students now have to perform inside their homes over Zoom until it’s safe to perform in-person.

Despite regulations in place due to the coronavirus, performing arts groups at the high school like concert band, the BHS Drama Society and a cappella groups: Note-a-fy, Testostatones and Perfect Pitch have found creative new ways to rehearse regardless. Rehearsals have continued over Zoom, in-person or both.

The concert band has been putting a lot of time and effort into getting their musicians back into the groove of things as they adjust their class structures to make it more adaptable for remote learning.

Senior Kira Wu-Hacohen and the rest of the concert band rehearse together over zoom. Band director Carolyn Castellano has made efforts to adapt her teaching style to the zoom format. (CONTRIBUTED BY KIRA WU-HACOHEN)

Senior Kira Wu-Hacohen, a flutist in the high school’s concert band, said that she appreciates the lesson plans conductor Carolyn Castellano has put together to work on aspects of playing that they hadn’t in the past.

“We talk about different breathing exercises, whereas if we were in person, we would be playing for almost the whole time,” Wu-Hacohen said. “I definitely appreciate what Carolyn’s doing, and how much effort she’s putting into creating lessons, but it’s really really different from in-person.”

The Drama Society is also up and running, with their Fall Shakespeare production, “Timon of Athens” currently underway. The production, which goes up over Zoom on Nov. 12 and 13, has not only changed the actors’ perspectives of how they portray their characters, but also how they highlight their strengths when acting, such as portraying certain emotions or interacting with other actors.

Senior and Drama Society President Din Klein said that she enjoys the new challenges that the performances over Zoom bring.

“We’ve been doing it one way for so long. We know what theatre on a stage looks like, and everyone knows their roles, so to shift it to Zoom, we have to do some tinkering with peoples’ roles and their abilities,” Klein said. “The challenge is kind of fun though; it’s new territory. We get to adapt.”

Although much is still unknown, they have another three weeks to work out the fine details of their production. According to director Mary Mastandrea, the Drama Society was able to incorporate some aspects of a traditional set-up by having in-person auditions. The cast-to-be met on Cypress Field, masked and social distancing. Mastandrea said students were easily able to project loud enough that the masks posed no issue in understanding one another.

Just like the Drama Society, various a cappella groups at the high school are up and running again, whether it be over Zoom, in-person or a combination of both.

Senior and Note-a-fy member Amita Polumbaum said that the group was very organized in setting up their auditions over Zoom this year.

“We made a Google form and had everyone input a time that worked for them. We did separate Zoom links for everyone, so the auditioners didn’t see each other.” Polumbaum said. “Usually, they’re individual auditions, so we tried to keep that as much as possible over Zoom.”

While some groups are having their auditionees sing live on Zoom, others are just getting to know their personalities and then having them submit a pre-recorded video.

Co-president of Testostatones junior Julius Arolovitch said that his group decided to not have auditionees sing live on Zoom in part due to the potential technological problems that could occur.

“People came and auditioned for 10 minutes, one-on-one with me and Oliver and whoever was interested, just to get to know them,” Arolovitch said. “Then, we had them give us their pre-prepared recording. We decided to not have people sing live because that experience is stressful, and as a result, maybe less people would have participated.”

While some a cappella groups have postponed in-person rehearsals until the hybrid model starts, Perfect Pitch has begun to have in-person, socially distanced outdoor rehearsals to try to return to a somewhat normal schedule.

Senior Lilah Sesling, a member of Perfect Pitch, said that the singers decided to have in-person rehearsals to try to maintain the strong group connection that they had last school year.

“We’ll meet in voice parts, we’ll still practice all at the same time, same place. We might just be in smaller groups so that we can try to be as safe as possible.” Sesling said. “We’re still trying to keep some of the usual pitch experience.”

Even though much is still unknown, the Performing Arts are doing their best to keep doing everything they love, whether that be acting, singing or playing an instrument.

“We’re as strong as ever, nothing can stop us,” Klein said. “Even though COVID has made it so that the situation is not ideal, we’re still all here together, being creative and doing theatre, and that’s what’s important.”