By Natalie Mack
While many beloved High School events are being called off this school year due to the pandemic, one club was able to remain. Nantucket High Schools Drama Club performed a play. Virtually, of course, but a play nonetheless!
On Wednesday, November 18th, 2020, the Drama Club’s take on the virtual play Bad Auditions…on Camera, written by Ian McWethy and Carrie McWethy, was shown at the Nantucket Dreamlands drive-in movie theatre. Showing it at the drive-in was a way for the young actors to somewhat simulate the feeling of an opening night. It allowed them to safely show their friends and family their talents, even if it was through a screen. Lily Whelden, who played the Casting Director, explained “showing the play the drive-in was definitely a different experience from opening nights in past years, but for me, the feelings of pride and excitement were still there. We were still putting on a show for people that we had all worked very hard for. Though the method was different, the feeling resided as the same all around. Yes, I still got the ‘opening night feelings!’”
Freshman Anna Popnikolova, who played the roles of Gina Marie and Phyllis, said “It was pretty difficult [to get to know cast members] since I don’t really know anyone at this school, and with the pandemic, getting to know others has been nearly impossible. I think it almost helped that we were recording scenes through a computer so that I wouldn’t have that pressure of performing live for the first time. I know it’s definitely a different experience either way, but I think the other drama club members made a very open and comfortable environment, that I know I would’ve been fine either way.”
As both actors stated, doing a virtual play has its similarities and differences to the traditional play we are all familiar with. However, as many of us have come to recognize, there are many things arising this year that are unfamiliar.
Just like any play, the students were required to send in an audition tape to their director prior to casting. Of course, this was done virtually as well. Once the young actors did so, a cast list was formed and everyone got to work. The actors met up with their scene partners through a Zoom call. Fortunately, the Bad Auditions…On Camera script was Zoom-based. So, the cast members were able to record their scenes right on the Zoom call. Following the recording of the scene, Whelden sent them to Madhav Adhikari, NHS’s Drama Club’s tech director. Adhikari proceeded to compile each scene into one big production.
Bad Auditions…On Camera is about a casting director and her assistant. The two professionals are trying to cast a role in a show titled, Crime Court. Since the Casting Director is stuck in Indiana, all the actors must meet with her through a Zoom call. As we all know, doing anything virtually has its challenges. As a few actors audition, the Casting Director begins to realize none of them are worthy of the part. In the end, the actor chosen for the role by the Casting Director and Assistant is a surprise to everyone.
A big part of the reason this production was possible is the director Emily Tessier. Tessier is a history teacher at Nantucket High School. Last year, being her first year teaching at Nantucket High School, she decided to take over the NHS Drama Club. Though Tessier had never directed a play, A Simpler Time written by Jonathan Dorf, the 2019 Drama Club production, was a hit. “Coincidentally”, Tessier stated when asked about the first two plays she’s directed, “The playwrights for Bad Auditions…On Camera, also helped to write A Simpler Time, the 2019 Drama Club production.” Tessier stated.
Tessier “found the play online through Playscripts, a theatre scripts licensing company. But for me, it wasn’t about the title of the play itself, I was looking for a play that could be performed virtually, if need be, and one that could be virtually filmed to be screened at the Drive-In. I liked Bad Auditions… On Camera because it wasn’t something that needed to be adapted to a virtual format, but instead that was created to be performed virtually.” she stated. In addition, she felt that “obviously directing a virtual play is much different than directing a normal play. Rather than instructing students to redo scenes, again and again, I’m supervising and coordinating virtual sessions to meet up and record scenes on Zoom. Though most of that work fell to Lily Whelden and Natalie Mack, the play’s leads.”
Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the Drama Club was able to work together and put on a play. COVID-19 tried to hide their talents, but they thought otherwise.