By Anna Popnikolova, assistant editor-in-chief
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping Nantucket in waves since March of 2020, Nantucket High School is reaching its second full year of pandemic-school, and with pandemic-school, come accommodations and restrictions. NHS’s regularly scheduled programming, so to speak, has been affected greatly by mandates and precautionary measures, leaving one of the school’s holiday traditions to make do with the alternatives. The Holiday Variety Show, normally held in the auditorium during the last block before dismissal for winter break, was forced to change to adapt to COVID protocol. In the 2020-21 school year, it was performed virtually. This year, students met in the auditorium to perform their pieces without an audience, and this pre-recorded show, available on YouTube, was played by advisors during the last block on December 21.
This past holiday season’s show was organized by NHS’s Spanish Club, with Señora Surprenant as the advisor for the club. She was assisted by a team of faculty and admin—Mr. Ferreira, Ms. Tessier, Señorita Echeverria, Mr. Peppard, and Mrs. Vasil—and a tech team from the student body—Madhav Atikari, Marley Viselli, Evan Keeler, Misho Minevski. Of course, as with any event trying to take place during the unpredictable pandemic, the planning committee and staff met challenges along the way. The event originally planned to be taking place after having taken a break for a year, ended up being nearly canceled as COVID cases skyrocketed after Thanksgiving break, and left Nantucket High School battling a brand-new wave of the virus, in the shiny new Omicron variant.
“The planning process was difficult and challenging—particularly given the need to sacrifice the LIVE show,” explained Señora. “There is nothing like a live performance— for the audience as much as for the performers. We nearly canceled, but had several seniors willing to participate, so we opted to try the pre-recorded video option.”
The show was filmed by Nantucket Community Television, edited by the tech crew of the variety show, and was uploaded to YouTube, allowing students to view it without needing to crowd in the auditorium, where risk of COVID spread is high. But, no matter what form the show took, the crew had to push through its struggles. The show must go on.
“We were burdened with sound issues from the beginning of auditions and rehearsals, all the way to the final product.” Surprenant continued, but added that she was, “heartened and humbled by the level of support and enthusiasm from participants, tech staff, Spanish Club members, and administration. The spirit of the holidays was evident as things came together in our final rehearsal.” Her only regret was that “the final video somehow didn’t completely reflect the exceptional talent as a live show would have.”
The performers in the show, which included members of the Spanish Club, Natalie Mack and her band, Maudjeani Pelissier, and Cate Oberly, shared their feelings about the show.
“It was so great to be able to perform on stage again.” Natalie Mack, junior, said. “It was unfortunate that we had to film it and didn’t get to have a live audience, though, but I am thankful for any opportunity to be on stage.” The show, to the students who took the chance to perform an act on stage, was an important chance to showcase their talents and have fun. It was agreed among everyone who participated in the show, that a live audience is always preferable for artists, and a live experience is inimitable for viewers, but accommodations needed to be made for the safety of the school community.
Junior Evan Keeler, who worked backstage on the show moving equipment on and off of the stage, agreed that some aspects of the show were more difficult to execute than others: “Everything worked out and the show was performed with a few hitches, but it left a lot of room for error. A lot could have gone wrong, and I personally only really had a good grasp on the instructions given until the dress rehearsal.” But, even throughout the process of rehearsing and getting acts together, the crew worked through the difficulties as a team, and the product they managed to create was satisfactory for many of them. The group, as always, had their backstage jokes, and the tech crew noted the encouragement they felt they had gotten from “the baby”, a plastic baby doll who has become a sort of relic to theater kids… he has been said to have been instrumental to the success of the show.
At the end of the production time, the show took place, and even if conditions may not have been optimal for everyone, students got their chance to take the stage and—although there may not have been a real audience filling the seats of the auditorium, performers had the opportunity to sing and dance on the real stage for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone holds onto hope that 2022’s holiday season will celebrate an in-person variety show and that the auditorium seats will be filled with applauding students.