Emma Newman staff writer
Theater students will perform, with a limited in-person audience, “Working” as the spring musical on May 22 and 23.
The show, which will take place outdoors at the high school and be performed by masked students, will have about 100 invited in-person viewers. Everyone else will be able to watch the show on KBEV after the live performance. Each student performer is authorized to invite up to four guests to the in-person showing.
The musical, which is a Stephen Schwartz play, centers around the life of working Americans in blue-collar jobs, without a particular romantic aspect or clear-cut storyline. Instead, it is composed of several vignettes, making it easier to social-distance for an in-person show or broadcast over Zoom.
These aspects made the musical particularly appealing to theater director Karen Chandler.
“It was the logical choice because, even right after spring break, I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to be able to do it live, so I had to find something [with] no kissing, no hugging [and] no touching…that could be if we had to perform on Zoom, and still make sense,” Chandler said. “[It was the] perfect choice.”
In terms of preparation, the cast of “Working” has participated in both in-person-optional and mandatory rehearsals. The in-person rehearsals are all conducted outside, an aspect that junior Emma Maurer, who plays the roles of Dolores and Maggie, finds noteworthy.
“It’s been interesting to adjust to not being in a studio space, so it’s [been] interesting having to dance and roll around outside because that’s a new challenge everyone’s had to face,” Maurer said.
However, because she is fully vaccinated, she thinks that the positive aspects of social interaction outweigh the difficulties of adjusting to the environment.
“The dynamic’s been a really positive environment. It’s been fun to be able to be with people again because that was missing for a year,” Maurer said. “I think it’s nice to be with a cast again and to all be in a company and have fun.”
Junior Eli Okum, who plays Mike and Utkarsh, also has enjoyed rehearsals because they have allowed him to return to his normal routine.
“My favorite part was having something to do after school again,” Okum said. “With theater and dance and choir coming to a stop, I wasn’t able to do what I always do. So, it was weird being done with my extracurricular activities at the end of school because usually I’m at school [until] 7 o’clock. It’s nice getting back into that.”
Rehearsals have been “fun” for Chandler as well because of the positive atmosphere and performances that she witnessed.
“I’m so happy to be live. It’s been so fun getting everybody together and rehearsing a show on our feet,” Chandler said. “[My] favorite part is watching the growth in actors, watching them grow and change and start to really become performers.”
She also loves watching the rush that her students get when performing live, something that she believes cannot be replicated in a virtual format.
“Performing live is a kick. Performing on camera is not a kick. It doesn’t have any adrenaline,” Chandler said. “That’s my favorite part of doing any theater- the adrenaline.”
Chandler has found adjusting to the requirements of in-person performing to be complicated, though. To avoid the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, Chandler made changes to the process of putting students in mics, designed complicated sets to maintain a three-to-six foot distance between actors, made sure that clear masks were mandatory for the actors and scheduled the performance during the day due to the show being outdoors.
Another accommodation Chandler made was reducing the size of the audience, a change that Maurer was not happy with.
“It sucks that we can only have a limited audience because, for the musical, I would usually have a million people [who] my mom would invite, but now everyone has to watch online if they’re not going in person,” Maurer said.
Even with the adjustments, though, Maurer has found the idea of an in-person show rewarding overall.
“I still think [an in-person production] is really important,” Maurer said. “It showed that theater prevailed above the pandemic. We kept going. I think it’s cool [and] it’s great that this in-person.”
In terms of the play itself, Maurer loves her role of Dolores because of her connection to the character.
“She’s really outspoken. One of her lines is actually, ‘I have an opinion on every single subject that there is,’ which is awesome because I have an opinion on every single subject there is, so I really relate to this one,” Maurer said. “It’s fun to play a character who’s similar enough to you to make it believable, but also different enough to give you a challenge.”
Okum is happy with his roles as well. His favorite aspect of the characters he plays is their root in reality.
“Usually, you don’t get to play regular people. It’s characters that are more out there, but in this musical, the people are just regular people so I like that,” Okum said.
He hopes people watch the musical out of supportiveness and to be entertained.
“I think people should watch the musical because it’s the first big piece of work that students have done and I think that they should support their school and their program,” Okum said. “I also think it’s a good musical to watch. I think it’ll be nice for everyone to see that musicals are coming back.”
Chandler also is proud of the musical and expects those who watch it to enjoy the performance.
“I think they’re going to be surprised at how good some of the stuff is,” Chandler said. “I don’t know if they’ll be surprised [because] maybe they’re used to seeing us do really good work, but there is some amazing work going on.”
While Maurer also believes that the entertainment value of the show is a reason to see it, to her, the main reason to attend the show, either via livestream or in-person, is to reintroduce people to theater in a post-pandemic world.
“It will…be nice for the audience, whether virtual or in person, to be able to see everyone and be like, ‘Oh my god. Everything’s kind of getting back to normal again. We can see that things are improving,’ and I think that’s probably the most important thing: to see a group of people who look like they’re having fun on stage, who are providing a form of entertainment,” Maurer said. “I think that will lift people’s spirits.”