Woodside’s Return to the Live Stage

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Amelie de Leon

After Woodside’s 2020 spring musical was cancelled, and the fall 2020 and spring 2021 musicals were done virtually, Woodside will put on a live, in-person performance this November.

Amelie de Leon, Co-Editor in Chief

The Woodside High School drama program is preparing to put on its first live, in-person play since November of 2019, a big deal for all of the actors, tech crew members, and production team involved in putting together the show.

Every year, the Woodside drama department puts on a fall play and a spring musical. Due to COVID-19, however, the fall play and spring musical of last year were put on virtually, in order to comply with social distancing protocols. The last live production the Woodside drama program put on was the 2019 fall production, which consisted of the one-act plays “The Unbearable Liteness of Being Teen” and “The Great Nursing Home Escape.” Although Woodside’s drama program initially expected to perform the March 2020 spring musical live, the production was shut down on March 10, 2020, three days before it was set to open.

Production for this year’s fall play has only just begun, but student actors, such as Woodside senior Gigi Pistilli are already excited to return to live theatre.

“Live theatre is more rewarding,” Pistilli said. “You get those long practices with your friends and tech week. When you have scene partners, you’re able to feed off of each other’s energy, instead of performing all by yourself.”

The fall play will be Pistilli’s seventh drama production at Woodside. Other students, such as Woodside senior Mia Chu, are returning to the Woodside stage for the first time in years.

“I am a senior, so this is kind of my last chance to be in theatre before I go to college,” Chu said.

It is not only student actors who are preparing to return to live theatre, but also student tech crew members, including Woodside senior Charlie Leake, who has been a part of the tech crew for Woodside productions since his freshman year. 

“We’ve had a few tech crew meetings. We’ve seen some new faces, which is super nice to see, along with some returning faces, which is always a pleasure,” Leake said. “In terms of getting ready [for the play], we’re just starting to get our bearings back.”

Because of the fall play and spring musical being virtual last year, student tech crew members were not able to work on the shows as they normally would in an in-person year. 

“It was pretty much like learning a whole new trade to be able to put on that show in April,” Meghan Souther, Woodside’s Performing Arts Center and theatre manager, said. “The tech of it, the Zoom rehearsals, all of that was just brand new.”

Due to the very different nature of last year’s shows, tech crew members were not able to get the experience they normally would from working on live shows.

“I think [new tech crew members] might struggle this year because the lack of experience will take a toll on them,” Leake stated. “Even for people who just haven’t done it in a while, they’re going to have to get back into the swing of things.”

Not only does performing live give student tech crew members the chance to practice their skills, but it also creates an entirely different acting experience for student actors.

“When you’re performing live, you can kind of tell if you’re doing a good or bad job based on the audience,” Pistilli said. “[The theatre] is such a big space that you feel less scared, and it’s easier to commit [to the role].”

Barry Woodruff, Woodside High School’s drama teacher and director of the fall plays and spring musicals, agrees.

“Just having a live audience, I mean, there’s something about it,” Woodruff said. “It’s really hard to get your adrenaline pumping and get your energy up if you don’t have the audience there… It’s the best teacher you’ll have as an actor.”

Although production of the fall play is only just beginning, members of the Woodside drama community are eager to get back into the swing of things.

“Just rehearsing and being able to be on stage is something I’m super excited for,” Chu stated.

The creative team hopes to be able to perform the show live, but there are a few potential backup plans in place that can be used in the event that COVID-19 drastically worsens by November, when the show is set to run. As of now, the show will be performed live, in-person, inside the PAC, but with a few safety precautions.

“Right now we’re at 50% capacity, so that puts us at 235 [audience members], and then obviously, everybody is going to be masked,” Souther said.

Although there is still some uncertainty on whether or not the play will be performed live if Covid were to worsen, cast and crew members look forward to hopefully bringing live theatre back to Woodside this November.

“We’re thrilled to be back and doing live theatre,” Woodruff concluded.

 

As this is being published, Woodside plans to perform the fall play live on November 19 and 20 in the PAC.