Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Theater Artistic Director, Susan Jung, had a full spring schedule of theater performances planned. As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually shut down extracurricular activities at schools around the nation, Jung faced the decision of how to handle the remaining upper school shows. Academy Night Live and The One Act are both ensemble performances and require actors to engage with one another the entire show.
For those who know her well, there was never a doubt that the shows would go on. Jung used her notable creativity to find a way to produce two memorable shows that could be viewed online.
Academy Night Live is an annual show that uses a Saturday Night Live format, but with family friendly content. A combination of comedy sketches, music, and improv make it the “can’t miss” show of the season. With the upper school cast already set prior to the Stay at Home order, Jung used her resources at hand and got to work. Students rehearsed and recorded together via Zoom, while Jung and her husband, CHCA Theater Manager/Technical Director Jim Jung, put everything together in one shareable link. With many talented CHCA theater alumni home from college, Jung was able to call on their help to record a hilarious opening to the show. Alumnus Abby Cates (’19) performed beautiful musical performances. The show was complete with a special musical montage by faculty and past alumni, with grades 9-12 covering the annual Weekend Update, numerous witty sketches, and improv by CHCA’s Off the Cuff. Need a laugh? You can still watch the complete show.
This is the third year for Jung’s creation The One Act, a “theatrical concert” featuring a variety of scenes and songs from various sources. This show has always been a great chance for grades 7-12 to collaborate and grow together. With the Stay at Home order in place, Jung realized it was a chance for these students to grow in even more ways as they prepared for the online show. Grades 7-9 performed material that prepares them for the challenges of the upper school stage productions and remote virtual programming. Grades 10-12 expanded their skill set in areas such a choreography, creative problem solutions, and possible technical areas such as split screen formatting, video editing, and virtual backgrounds. Grades 11-12 took on the director role, learning how to run virtual rehearsals, block scenes, and direct actors via remote direction and tele-choreography. A few recent CHCA graduates also joined in to help with directing.
Jung shared the extra challenges that come with performing theater remotely. “The challenge this time was trying to maintain the quality, while not having the time to properly rehearse, film, and edit, which is a longer process than having a live production. Also, without an audience, we must rely on our instincts and experience to know when something works and the students must bring the same performance level, which can be difficult for younger actors.”
One CHCA grade 9 student shared her experience from being a part of both shows: “Even though we had to rehearse and sometimes film remotely, we all still had the same good vibes. Susan would check in on every rehearsal and help us, even though she had so many different scenes to manage. Although the format was different, it was still so much fun to be a part of.”
While the students for The One Act rehearsed via zoom and phone, they eventually needed to record together. Jung and her family
created a stage in their backyard, complete with taped out sections on their deck and yard to keep students six feet apart. Plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and masks were also available. The students followed a schedule so that filming took place in small groups. Watch The One Act when it airs live on Friday 05/15/20.
“I loved watching the students rise to the occasion,” shared Jung. “They adapted quickly to a process that is such a departure from live theatre. They listened well, learned eagerly, and seemed excited for the chance to do what they love. But, my favorite part year after year with The One Act especially, is watching some of our upperclassmen (and alumni this year!) interact with the Grade 7-9 students. They build relationships that are unique to having this opportunity to work together, even if they are six feet part.”
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