“There’s no place like home” took on a whole new meaning for the students in Broadalbin-Perth Elementary Drama Club this year.
It’s not only where the 80 students finished out the school year but it’s where they rehearsed for their production of “The Wizard of Oz,” for the past few months. The work they put in will be on display on Friday when they present “Virtual Vignettes: A Journey to Oz” via Facebook Live.
The Drama Club is one of very few in the Capital Region who have been able to hold any sort of theatrical production since schools switched to distance learning due to COVID-19. Many have had to cancel or postpone their spring musicals and plays, while others, like Broadalbin-Perth Elementary, are coming up with out of the box solutions.
Directed by Jen Szumowski, the production has given students something to look forward to when it seems like most of their spring and summer plans have been canceled. They’ve been rehearsing in small groups over Google Meets since late March.
“For the most part, it went very well. I have to say that the kids really stepped up and showed up. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Szumowski said.
“I had several parents say to me ‘Thank you for keeping things as normal as possible. It gave the kids something to look forward to every rehearsal.’ It was a real positive thing.”
“Doing the calls was something to look forward to because you got to hang out with friends and refresh your memory,” said Alixandria Shrome, who plays Dorothy.
As the lead character with perhaps the most lines, she found she needed that refresher throughout the spring.
“It’s been kinda crazy because you have so many new lines and lots of songs,” Alixandria said.
But her mom, Rachel, said having the sessions has helped to give them a semblance of normalcy.
The students also were able to present a virtual version of the show in May over Google Meets to their classmates.
“That was really fun because we got to run through the entire show together, saying the lines, dancing to it and we got to dress up as our character,” Alixandria said.
“Because the kids were home I said to them go in your closets, go in your parent’s closets, find anything that will look remotely like your costume. So they did and they just blew me away with their creativity,” Szumowski said.
Yet, the cast still hoped to hold an in-person show in July where they could invite the public. As the month drew nearer, it became clear that it still wouldn’t be safe to hold an in-person production.
“There’s no way you could get an audience in there and the kids can’t be together. It’s very hard. So once I canceled, we were all down in the dumps,” Szumowski said.
Then, a colleague from another district gave her the idea to film small portions of the show and present them online. About two weeks ago, some of the students cast as the main characters got together to film key scenes using the seven-foot backdrops that the club had made earlier this year.
One such student was Adisen Eglin, who plays the Wicked Witch and just finished seventh grade.
“That was a lot of fun to see everybody,” Eglin said.
They filmed some of the introductory scenes, as well as dramatic scenes like when the wicked witch melts. The videos were then edited together by John Aery, an art teacher at the school.
“Virtual Vignettes” kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday via the B-P Facebook page. Before that, starting at 6:30 p.m., there will be a red carpet show where members of the community are invited to post photos of themselves and share messages with cast and crew with the hashtag #BPinOZ.
There will also be a raffle drawing for several gift baskets to raise money for the club.
Adisen, like many cast members, is looking forward to the “Virtual Vignettes” not only because she wants more people to see the production and the witch’s cackle that she’s refined for it, but also because she hopes it will give others a bit of inspiration.
“I’m really excited because then we’ll see how we can deal with it so maybe they’re like ‘We can maybe do drama,’” Adisen said.
For more information about the show visit the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District on Facebook.