Local theaters make adjustments

Theaters hold both virtual and in person classes and rehearsals

Rory Quealy, Assistant Web Editor

During the past eight months of the pandemic, local theaters have had to be creative in order to safely allow kids to continue to act, sing and perform. 

Music Makers Theatre was supposed to have their high school students perform “Chorus Line” as their summer musical but had to cancel due to COVID-19. The kindergarten-eighth grade group was able to carry out their show of “Moana” and record it for families to watch, but due to copyright reasons, high school musicals cannot be recorded. 

“It was a bummer because we’d all been looking forward to [‘Chorus Line’],” Music Makers Theatre student Ellie Henry ‘22 said. “Everyone was so excited for that show, and then it just didn’t happen.”

To make up for the loss, the theater put on a cabaret in August and sang some songs from “Chorus Line” outside, socially distanced and with masks on. 

As of late October, Music Makers Theatre was able to work on plays with in-person rehearsals every Sunday. However, because of the recent rise in cases and for the safety of their students, they have switched to Zoom rehearsals as of Nov. 22. They plan to return to in-person rehearsals as soon as it is safe to do so. The kindergarten-eighth grade group is working on Disney’s “Descendents” and the high schoolers are doing “Clue,” a comedy play based on the board game. 

“I’m so excited for my students who have been missing [theater] just like we have so much,” Theater Director Micki Doherty said. “So as long as we’re being safe, careful, following every restriction we have to, we are going to do everything we can to think outside the box and make it happen for our students.”

To ensure everyone’s safety, students were required to fill out a wellness check before every rehearsal. They also checked everyone’s temperature before they went into the rehearsal. Everyone was required to wear a mask and remain six feet apart from others at all times. 

Currently, “Descendants” is set to be recorded. For “Clue” however, they are hoping that they can perform it in person for a small audience of around 30 people because each cast of “Clue” only has 12 students. The performance is scheduled for the end of January. However because anything can change, they are prepared to record it as well, Doherty said. 

The theater at the Community Park District of LaGrange Park was only three weeks away from performing “Seussical Jr.” with 110 kids in the cast when the pandemic hit, and they were forced to cancel it. Since then, they have held virtual classes for improv, audition prep and characterization. They also held a virtual cabaret where they compiled videos of the students singing different songs for the families to watch. 

When the COVID-19 cases in the area were lower, the theater held a six-week, in-person improv class with 11 students. Everyone wore masks and remained six feet apart. At the end of the class, they performed songs and did improv comedy sketches for a live audience of around 30 people. 

“I think that it’s important to still do theater because it’s always important to share stories,” Theater Director Spencer Douglas Clark said. “Especially for these kids, it’s important for them to still express themselves and find their individuality through theater, which is one of the biggest things that I try to work with them on when we do classes and shows.”

They are currently scheduled to start another in-person class in January with a maximum of 11 students. It’s going to be a triple threat program focusing on singing, dancing and acting of different musical numbers from shows. In March, they are looking to have another musical that they create themselves. It will integrate songs from the radio and include improv scenes. 

“[Theater] was the place where I was able to find myself and my voice,” Clark said. “It was so incredible for me, so being able to continue sharing that with others and inspire others to do the same thing I think is so crucial right now.”