The show must go on: Conant Theatre presents musical ‘Freaky Friday’
Photos provided by Katherine Apperson and Conant Theatre
This school year, Conant Theatre brings a new meaning to the phrase ‘The show must go on!’ They will be producing their fall musical “Freaky Friday” despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic.
“Essentially, we’ve taken the season and turned it on its head,” said Katherine Apperson, English teacher and director of the musical.
Normally a very hands-on and collaborative effort, the production has been creatively transformed to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines. The production is filmed and will be streamed instead of performed in front of a live audience, presenting new challenges to cast and crew.
“We’re adapting to being filmmakers, while also accommodating to a schedule that is bumped up and forward,” Apperson said.
Two cameras were used to record the production: one stationary camera, and one moving camera. Despite having little experience in using filming equipment and video editing softwares for producing a musical, cast and crew members learned the skills necessary to make it happen.
“We don’t know how to do it, but we know how to apply the skills we have for regular theatre,” technical director Teagan Whiteside, ‘21, said.
A usual production normally has very quick transitions between scenes and fast-paced rehearsals, but filming has made the process of getting to a “final product” longer.
“When we’re in rehearsals, we have our lines memorized pretty fast and everything is done very quickly. Then, we typically put it all together, but this has been a little bit slower,” said Emma Schuth, ‘23, who plays the lead character Ellie Blake. “We are getting stuff done, but that is definitely a challenge.”
Along the way, the cast and crew has had to learn how to fix and adjust to elements on camera that look different than in a live performance.
“Especially on camera, lighting is different. Costuming is different. It’s all very different,” Whiteside said. “Normally, we have a 30-foot ‘rule’ where it doesn’t matter if it looks good up close; as long as it looks good from far away, it’s fine. But now, the camera is two feet away from the person, so it’s much more detailed.”
Wearing a mask has also prompted students to explore acting and emoting in different ways.
“We’re wearing masks, so we’re learning to act with our eyes a little bit more,” Schuth said. “It’s definitely a new experience and a different kind of connection between each other.”
In order to maintain a six-foot social distance between all individuals at all times, the cast had to be extra aware of their spacing while on stage, and individuals were seated four chairs apart when not actively working in the crew or performing.
No longer confined to a stage in front of a live audience, the troupe was also able to utilize the main hallway, a biology classroom, the main entrance, the atrium, and other locations at school during filming.
“The versatile set inspires social distancing,” Apperson said. For example, Apperson noted that the kitchen island table on stage served not only as a prop, but also as a reminder for maintaining spacing on stage.
Social distancing has made it challenging, but has also given students creative freedom while performing, Apperson said.
“We still have the freedom and fun that we usually have,” Schuth said. “We’re still able to connect with each other, and we still have chemistry together as actors pretty well, and it’s been really fun.”
Based on Disney Channel’s movie “Freaky Friday,” the adapted one-act production will have pre-recorded songs edited into the production video instead of live singing. Conant Theatre will also be releasing a cast album of songs from the musical.
“Freaky Friday” follows the comedic yet heartfelt story of rebellious teenager Ellie Blake, played by sophomore Emma Schuth, and her mother Katherine, played by senior Morgan Schoebel, who don’t see eye to eye.
A twist of fate causes them to switch bodies, and they have to learn to navigate in each other’s world. Conant Theatre has added their own twist; the musical will be taking place during a global pandemic.
“It’s a really fun, high energy show,” Schuth said. “It’s got a bit of everything: comedy moments, some real serious moments, heartwarming things, and there are just a lot of different aspects of the show that I think a lot of people would like. And it’s got that sprinkle of Disney, so how could you not like it!”
The musical will be streamed from Nov 5 to Nov 7 through ShowTix4U.com. People can purchase tickets through the website, and they will receive an email confirmation with a link.
On the night of the show, audience members can follow the link to watch the performance. Apperson said that viewers will want to make sure they have a solid internet connection and full battery on their device so there will be no worries of missing a single moment.
“The students rose to the challenge,” said Apperson. “They’re excited to share the story.”