Rehearsing in a pandemic

Teams rehearsals for the Spring Production well underway and filming has begun. Actors have been sent green screens and have sourced costumes with the guidance of the production team (and a few parcels en route to those who don’t have 1920s attire around their houses!) The editing team are already at work and the researchers are checking for accuracy. This image says it all. Our period choice was quite apt it would appear. Here, 6.1 student Elena gives us an actor’s perspective on the experience and how it feels to be involved in a lockdown project.

By Elena Belisario, 6.1
I’ve been performing since about three. Whether I was doing ballet, or singing in the choir, or acting in the school play, I always seemed to be on the stage. There was always this special thrill I got from being backstage and seeing the stage lights go up as I prepared to go on. So when I signed up for the Spring Production and went to that first Teams meeting, I really hadn’t expected that we would actually be doing it virtually, and that the ‘being on stage’ bit was going to be taken out of it. However, this experience has really helped me grow and appreciate how much the crew really play a vital part.

You see, being an actress, or being involved in acting, pre-COVID meant that you would rehearse, learn your lines, get your hair and makeup done by someone else and your costume made by someone else, and you would go on stage and act. The lights seemed to magically always work; the set had somehow magically appeared and, if it was being filmed for the parents, a video would magically appear on the school website or in your parents emails a few weeks later. Being involved in acting during COVID has made the realisation dawn on me that well, maybe, these things don’t just happen magically after all.

I have had to set up a green screen which people found take a surprisingly long time to iron. I had to record myself, thinking about the camera angles and setups and lighting. I had to find my own costume (which involved a lot of digging around my mum’s wardrobe) and I had to do my own hair and makeup (the 1920s bob is really a lot harder than it looks). All of this meant a lot more effort is required than usual, when the crew can do all of that for you. So this experience has really made me so appreciative of the crew and what goes on backstage whilst we actors are so preoccupied with ourselves and our performance.

It’s also taught me about making the most of every circumstance. When COVID first hit and then when schools shut for the second time, my personal reaction was complete meltdown. “All of these opportunities flushed down the drain, all of those memories we are missing out on!” I complained to my friends numerous times over the phone. Hayley and Joanne were real superheroes in the fact that they saw this as not an opportunity flushed down the drain, but an opportunity to do something different. To challenge ourselves and be resilient – that no matter what COVID throws at us, we can adapt and do something different. I have found that very inspiring.

The Spring Production is coming along very well: every rehearsal is exciting and I am so enjoying figuring out my character and learning how to cooperate with everyone online. I honestly can’t wait to see the end result and how all of our work turns out, and when the time comes, I hope that you enjoy watching it too.

This video gives you an insight into our Autumn production, ‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne, which was also delivered during the pandemic. This project was rehearsed and performed on site but adhering to social distancing measures, using duplicate casts across two bubbles to allow for student isolation. I hope you agree that it did not hamper creativity in the slightest and again showcases not only our students talent but their versatility and resilience in these times, which inspires us all.

Spring Production prepares to go digital

The Spring Production is now well underway. 6.1 students are acting in ‘Machinal’ by Sophie Treadwell, one of our A Level set texts. It is a digital production and Joanne Greenwood and her team are already busy with the production elements. Sam Coleman, a member of theatre crew, tells us what is going on behind the scenes.

By Sam Coleman, Block 4

As the closure of school extends and we settle back into the routine of remote learning, the hard working stage crew bring their talented skillset to a new environment. Over last few weeks we have been working on Machinal, a stage show set in the 1920s, preparations for which will continue over the coming weeks.

With more time on our hands we are able to conduct more thorough research and find historically accurate sounds, videos and images for a more immersive and realistic experience. With the production team meeting for an hour once a week, each meeting consists of a brief rundown of tasks to fulfil, followed by a usually silent and hardworking 30 minutes of researching, sourcing, snipping and downloading. After we reconvene and share our findings, we work towards creating a scene or making edits, adding in and layering sound effects, finding visuals to go with our ‘soundscape’ and ensuring the highest quality possible.

The stage management team have been researching historically accurate props and locations to assist the actors in imagining their environment, whilst the wardrobe department have assigned costume supervisors to work with each actor to help them style costumes and hair from what they can find at home. As our soundscapes and accompanying visuals begin to fit together nicely, it will be great to see how the project progresses in the weeks to come.