Zainab Shafqat Adil
Despite COVID-19 regulations and limitations surrounding the performing arts, the Performing Arts Department has found a way to make this year’s High School production of “Little Shop of Horrors” happen.
Auditions were initially taking place by video, with submissions beginning Sept. 11 and ending at 8 p.m. Sept. 14. As of now, the production will be performed the week of Nov. 16, but that date is subject to change.
“Little Shop of Horrors” is a rock horror comedy themed musical that follows the story of Seymour, a young man working in a floral shop that discovers a mysterious plant that feeds solely on human flesh and blood. While this plant earns Seymour great fame and does wonders for the shop’s business, it also presents him with a series of challenges that he must overcome.
Middle and High School Choral Director Lisa Ross said that the storyline of “Little Shop of Horrors” encompasses different aspects of the current situation and as a result, is the perfect show to put on amidst the coronavirus.
“Little Shop of Horrors is, we believe, the most perfect show for this year because of the plot of something starting small and growing to have devastating effects on the world,” she said. “It’s also great because the cast can be as small as ten people or as big as we want it to be. Everything can be pared down quite well if we need it to.”
Similarly, Performing Arts Teacher Todd Sessoms said that this musical suited the events of the year but also contained an upbeat aspect, which he said is important right now.
“[‘Little Shop of Horrors’] captures a lot of that upbeat spirit of the 60s doo-wop music,” he said. “Within it, though, are all sorts of themes of identity and challenging systems. A lot of that is really coloring part of the experience of the show in terms of what is going on.”
Danna Rubesh (’22) plans to audition for the musical and said she was excited that it is still happening given all of the uncertainty around sports, extracurriculars and after school activities.
“I’m really excited because I love ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and that we’re able to do a musical this year because I really didn’t think we were going to be able to,” she said.
In order to successfully and safely put on the production this year, the Performing Arts Department is taking various precautions and steps to ensure that COVID-19 regulations are abided by.
Sessoms said that these precautions include taking advantage of Zoom as the primary platform for rehearsals, utilizing outdoor spaces and integrating masks and other coronavirus medical supplies into the actual performance.
“[U.K.] guidance right now allows performances to take place with a limited audience in terms of social distancing,” Sessoms said. “There are performances that can happen with masks as long as measures are in place to mitigate any kind of risk.”
Sessoms said The Performing Arts team has also planned and prepared by measuring stage distancing in the School Center while considering airflow and spacing. He said they determined that they can have up to 16 people on the stage at a time.
Ross also said that The Department is mainly focusing on making adaptations as the rehearsal season progresses.
“Flexibility continues to be the most essential thing for the Performing Arts team,” Ross said. “Everything that we’re doing is being reinvented.”
Additionally, due to restrictions caused by COVID-19, Sessoms said the department has a few concerns in terms of the performance aspect.
Sessoms said that he is concerned about losing the typical connection performers have with a physical audience and will have to find “new and creative ways to perform again in public spaces, or in virtual spaces to allow us to connect and meaningfully to an audience.”
However, both directors also said that there are benefits to the features of virtually putting on the production.
“There’s going to be such a deeper understanding of everyone’s character, of their music, of the role that they play literally and metaphorically in the show because we’re really taking time to go on that journey individually before putting it back together as a whole,” Ross said.
Sessoms said that he is excited about the process this year and is looking forward to experimenting with different designs and performing options to make the production the best that it can be.
“What I’m most excited about is actually we’re looking at a combination of virtual recording and performing as well as outdoor performance spaces,” he said.
Sessoms and Ross said that this year will be an important example of how there is always a way to get over the obstacle and that artists will learn and grow from this experience and come away from it stronger than ever.
“It’s really inspirational when you look at what artists are doing around the world right now; how they’re reinventing what they do to make it to make art still possible,” Ross said. “[Artists] are some of the most flexible, adaptable and creative people on the planet and I would love for the students to get that opportunity to perpetuate it.”
In addition, Sessoms said that this year is actually an opportunity to modernize the musical and truly take advantage of these times.
“I’m inspired by it,” he said. “It’s a really interesting challenge and, and as much as we can mourn the loss of some of the traditional performance opportunities that we have, I really do believe that this is not a lost year or a lost opportunity, but that we are going to find all sorts of new and creative ways to engage throughout this year.”