Prep School Theater Department Puts On Stunning Virtual Production
Marquis Austin

Last Thursday and Friday, the Prep School theater and dance department mesmerized the School with their moving fall virtual production, RIGHT NOW. While putting on a virtual production was a new and challenging experience for them, the Prep School's talented theater students succeeded in completing their goal — bringing the CGPS community together during a time when connection is more valued than ever. "Even though everyone was in their own home watching, they felt connected as a community," said Theater and Dance Department Head Sarah Cusick.

The theater department typically holds auditions for the fall play in June, but this year, students and faculty entered the summer with no knowledge of what they would be working on come September. "Back in June, it was clear that no one knew what things were going to be like in the fall, so we decided we wouldn't make a decision yet about the play," said Ms. Cusick. As the sunny days came and went and an in-person production became less and less likely due to the ongoing pandemic, Ms. Cusick turned her attention to a drama style that could easily be adapted for a virtual setting — verbatim theater. "I began asking myself, 'What is a project that I can do no matter what restrictions are put on us?'" she explained. In verbatim theater, performers interview people of various backgrounds and tell their stories on stage — or in this case, Zoom — word for word. It's a form of theater that, as Ms. Cusick described, "really does lend itself to solo work" and, as a result, can be produced remotely. Staging a production this way also provided students with an opportunity to dive deep into how people are feeling at this time. "Processing what we've all been through and capturing the moment seemed like an important way to build empathy and heal," said Ms. Cusick. 

To begin the process, students reached out to people who had compelling pandemic-related stories to tell. "The students had to be very proactive. They had to write the emails, think up the questions and then conduct the interviews," said Ms. Cusick. For example, Lara B. '23, an actress interested in interviewing domestic abuse survivors, sent over 50 emails before hearing back from Naomi Young, an attorney from Her Justice, an organization that supports impoverished women in New York City. In addition to segments in which the actors portray their real-life subjects, RIGHT NOW also features on-camera interviews with students, alumni, teachers and other CGPS community members. The cast and crew compiled so much interview footage that the first cut, which the editors spent a total of 35 hours assembling on Adobe Premiere Pro, was over two hours long!

Coordinating everything via Zoom proved difficult at times, but the obstacles the RIGHT NOW team faced along the way made the show's success all the more meaningful. "There were days where I would finish the rehearsal and was either laughing or wanting to pull my hair out," said Ms. Cusick. "That is part of why then I'm just so proud, surprised and impressed that in the end, we were able to persist in getting it done." 

To watch RIGHT NOW, click here.

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