In the dew-filled mornings of districts, Grant Newcombe’s medals clink against his chest as he excitedly walks with the others to watch their fellow troupe members perform their respective events.
For avid theater participants, districts is a well-anticipated annual event. It’s a chance for students from all corners of the county to compete and showcase their talents pertaining to theater from monologues to pantomimes. One of the events performed at districts is the One Act.
The One-Act is a student-directed show. The blocking and stage design is entirely done by the cast. Performers cannot wear microphones and must project their voices so they can be heard properly. It is usually performed in front of a group of judges who have a certain criteria that they are looking for.
The middle schoolers will be performing “Bedtime Stories (As Told by Dad) (Who Messed Them Up),” a comedy centered on a father telling his children bedtime stories and straying away from the source material. The high schoolers will be performing “Oz,” a comedy/drama that serves as a cynical parody of the beloved story, “The Wizard of Oz.”
However, due to the ongoing pandemic, several changes in the rules and structure of this competition have been instituted.
In order to maintain safety, social distancing and other COVID-19 regulations will have to be enforced. According to Ethan Rebec, the director of both the middle school and high school One Acts, the performers will be wearing masks at all times, keeping 6 feet apart when they are not in the scene, and will have their own script so no one has to share.
Senior Genevieve Archibald, who is performing in the One-Act, said the changes will make things frustrating.
“Singing with masks on is hard because you can’t catch your breath,” she said. “It will also make dance rehearsals hard because many people will be short of breath while dancing. A critical part of the One-Act is the ability to project and masks make it even harder to do so. We will have rehearsals about projection and articulation though so none of the show will be lost to the masks.”
Sophomore Grant Newcombe worries the quality of the performance will suffer.
“I think social distancing during rehearsals is logical; however, with the masks, it is harder to hear people and see their facial expressions,” he said. “It will definitely make things more difficult because staging-wise, we are required to stage the play so that no one touches, which will make stage chemistry much more difficult. It will also be much harder to see someone’s characterization, so the director will have a harder time helping and giving tips to the actors.”
Senior Meghan Matthys does not see a downside when it comes to socially-distancing during rehearsals.
“I agree with the social distancing rules during rehearsals,” she said. “COVID-19 is a very big issue and can even be deadly for some people. I think it is worth it to socially distance if we are able to save a life in the process. I don’t think it will negatively affect our performance at all and it actually may allow people to feel safer when coming to rehearsals.”
Another major alteration to the usual One-Acts system is that the performances will be recorded and submitted to judges rather than being performed live. The final submissions will be due on Nov. 3, which is much earlier than the usual date for districts seen in past years.
“Recording a submission will make the performance easier to master because you can record it as many times as you wish so that it is perfect,” Newcombe said. “This will make the performances much better. However, it takes away from the overall experience of it and the troupe will not be able to support everyone’s events. It will not be the same enjoyable experience, but it will likely improve the quality of the events as long as the video does justice to the actual sound of the performers.”
Time, in past years, has been a major factor of One-Acts. Part of preparing for the performance included ensuring that the actors were not going past the allotted time through their dialogue and set changes. However, with the changes evoked from COVID-19, this aspect of the One Acts is gone.
“We don’t have to do live-set changes,” Archibald said. “We are able to stop and start recording after the set has been changed. This allows for the burden of time restriction to go away. However, we won’t have a live district competition or a state competition which is the highlight of everyone’s years. So there are both pros and cons.”
Recorded performances enable mobility for their final submission, according to Matthys.
“I think that we all would prefer to perform in-person in front of the judges, but since we can’t do that this year, we have to adjust our performance a bit,” Matthys said. “By submitting a video, we are able to cut out some parts, such as set changes, to save time, and we can have a lot more elaborate sets. There’s a lot more flexibility this year.”
Although the One-
Acts are student-directed and generally student-run, Ms. Fallon’s departure has left an impact.
“Mr. O’Bryan as well as other older students have really stepped up in order to fill the leadership positions needed,” Newcombe said.
Thomas O’Bryan, the new sponsor of the theater department, has been incredibly supportive, according to Newcombe, and has filled the hole that Fallon, the past theater instructor, left with her sudden retirement.
“Mr. O’Bryan has been very willing and understanding throughout this time,” Newcombe said. “We are unable to practice without a sponsor, so he has always shown up for us. He has assumed the position very quickly and signed us up for districts, which we could not do without an adult.”
Archibald also believes that Mr. O’Bryan has been exceptionally accommodating.
“He dedicates a lot of time to rehearsals and always aids us when it comes to talking with administration.” She said.
This year, the competition will not solely be with one district and will be broken into regionals, which could pose as a hardship.
“Winning will be more difficult this year than any other previous years because the district competition is now a regional competition, so we will be up against four times the amount of schools as we normally would be,” Archibald said.
Despite all of these massive changes in rules that will obviously take some time to get accustomed to, the students feel confident in how their performance will go.
“I’m feeling super confident that we will do well this year,” Matthys said. “Our whole cast is so talented and I think we definitely have a shot at qualifying for state’s or even winning Best-of-Show.”
Newcombe also shares this enthusiasm when it comes to winning.
“I am confident that our troupe will perform well.” He said. “Our troupe lost a lot of talented seniors and I was originally concerned that we would not have people to make up for it, but the people who have not been featured before really have stepped up and shown their talent.”