by Mike Knaak
The show must go on – even in the time of COVID-19 – for the theater students at Sartell High School.
The students will present virtually four short shows, three of them written by current or former students, at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 28-30, streamed on the school district’s YouTube channel.
In place of a one-act play usually performed this time of year, the theater students have been rehearsing and recording the four productions via Zoom. Director Kelli Killmer planned to produce one show. When many students auditioned, she decided to add three 10-minute productions written by students.
“I appreciate the technology we have to do something with theater when we can’t be in person,” Killmer said.
Instead of a large stage where actors can move, stand and sit, Zoom limits the actors to a small square showing the body only from the shoulders up.
“It’s been a whole new world,” Killmer said. “I usually tell actors on stage to ‘be big with body motions.’ Now we have to stay in the box.”
The Zoom format changed the way the actors interpret their characters, they said.
Ethan Neid said he’s focusing on upper body movements and facial expressions.
“I use my hands more to show the character,” Brooke Eibensteiner said. She’s getting used to seeing herself in the Zoom screen as she performs.
“Interaction is harder,” Salma Maray said. “We’re so used to feeding off others’ energy. It’s harder to do that through a screen. I’m more focused on every little thing I do.”
The actors perform from their homes with directors, lighting, costume and makeup crew coaching virtually. The technical crew prepared a PowerPoint offering tips for makeup
and costumes. Neid recorded the actors from the Zoom sessions and edited the video for streaming.
The four shows were either designed or adapted for the Zoom environment, so they are heavy on snappy dialogue, facial expressions and simple costumes with no need for elaborate sets.
The four shows and the student playwrights are:
“Zoom Newscast” by Ethan Neid (class of 2021); “The Bachelorettes’ Bachelor” by Brooke Eibensteiner (class of 2021); “Bunco Night at the End of the World” by Megan Mechelke (class of 2019); and “A Virtual Whodunnit” by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus (presented with permission from Dramatic Publishing Co.).
Student directors are Ethan Neid (“Zoom Newscast”) and Kate Manning (“A Virtual Whodunnit”)
Crew members are Bailey Guggisberg (lighting), Eva Hesse (costumes), Emmerson Hewett (sound), Olivia McDonough (hair and makeup) Ethan Neid (video editing) and Annika Orjansen (stage manager).
Actors are Lance Anderson, Sarah Avery, Olivia Binsfeld, Travis Bunkers, Brooke Eibensteiner, Elliott Hammer, Tierney Hammer, Eva Hesse, Maxx Jokela, Sophie Klemp, Kate Manning, Salma Maray, Olivia McDonough, Ethan Neid, Libby Nelson, Lindsey Nelson, Josh Nguyen, Jack Pesta, Hannah Rivard and Leighton Stebbins.