Two children’s theaters, Theater in the Park (TITP) and Stage & Screen Studios, are kicking off the fall season with creative productions that keep students and staff safe, and get them back onstage.
TITP ran workshops in groups of eight students this summer, as students created their own skits. At the end of the class, students performed for their parents. This format allowed students to showcase their talent and allowed parents to see their children in the spotlight. When it came time to plan the fall season, the TITP staff jumped at the opportunity to do it again.
“We decided to do the same thing for this session,” said TITP director and founder Jennifer Lee Kraus. “We are calling it ‘Once Upon A Time...A Fractured Fairytale,’ so the premise is putting a modern twist on a classic fairytale and taking it in whatever direction that students take it in. The directors come up with their own plot and characters, and they are working with the kids to formulate it.”
TITP will also offer multiple acting workshops, a show choir-style vocal workshop called Pitch Perfect for Kids, and for the first time, a Broadway Babies Pre-K musical theater workshop.
On October 4, TITP also livestreamed and recorded a talent showcase for the students who were supposed to be in productions during the lockdown. The students had the creative freedom to decide what talent they each wanted to showcase.
“They can do whatever they want. In fact, I have a kid who wants to sing something from ‘Hamilton,’” Kraus said days before the showcase. “It's just giving them a performance opportunity.”
Kraus is grateful that TITP is up and running. Although it may be a different world, she is excited to be a part of some normalcy.
“There's just a feeling I get when I’m there,” Kraus said. “I can truly say that my heart is there, and when I get started with the programs, I almost forget that there’s this COVID world going on. I get to see kids laugh and play and get creative. It is such a blessing.”
Stage & Screen Studios would typically be doing a large musical show this time of year, but the staff is focusing on projects with smaller groups this year and vocal, dance, piano and private or group lessons.
For the foreseeable future, Stage & Screen will focus on straight plays with smaller casts to limit the number of people onstage and make room for social distancing.
“I would love to see that we are back to doing musicals, but it's imperative that we stay on the safe side until things are sort of under control,” said Pete Garvey, Stage & Screen director and instructor. “Even though we are allowed to, I’d like to hold off for now.”
Garvey said he would continue to monitor the situation and hopes to return to the musicals in the spring. The biggest project at Stage & Screen this fall is the newest television endeavor.
“We have 11 people in our new show called ‘The Point,’” said Garvey. “It's a suspense and mystery surrounded around a location in Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay. We just finished day one of shooting and will probably have to go into another day on our pilot.”
The show will be uploaded on Youtube and Vimeo when the project is completed.
Though they did perform “High School Musical” virtually, most of the Stage & Screen “family” had not seen one another for months.
“It's different, perhaps in a good way,” Garvey said. “Regardless of age, this is impacting all of us in similar ways. Everybody has a greater appreciation for being together. Even with a small class, there is positive energy that is more evident than it has been before. It feels really great.”
Both Stage & Screen Studios and Theater in the Park are asking students to wear masks, checking temperatures and taking all necessary precautions to ensure that the students and staff are safe.