Olympus High’s theater program adapts to an unpredictable COVID yearNov 24, 2020 01:26PM ● By Heather Lawrence
Students wear masks and distance themselves to attend theater rehearsals at Olympus High. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
Olympus High theater teacher Robin Edwards is a master at what she does. She’s been at Olympus for 30 years and has it down to a science. She chooses and casts shows months in advance. Her rehearsal schedules are organized and disciplined. She’s a planner.
“When the COVID dismissal hit in the spring, I had just barely cast my annual mini Shakespeare Festival. We had to let it go. It broke my heart because it’s an essential part of my students’ education and very dear to me,” Edwards said.
The original school closure was two weeks. Then it extended to six. And before Edwards knew it, in-person learning and theater events were canceled for the rest of the year.
“Our spring 2020 musical was ‘Little Women,’ and we had just finished blocking the show. Our costumer, choreographer and voice coach had all done incredible things with the cast. Canceling was a huge disappointment,” Edwards said.
Edwards tried to adapt the play to incorporate physical distancing, creating a plan that followed the athletic activities’ guidelines and performing outside. “The district was not supportive of our plans, and we were unable to do the show. It was like getting slugged in the stomach, especially for the seniors who had waited for their chance to be a lead.”
Edwards’ plans were frustrated once again in fall when COVID cases at Olympus led the school to dismiss for online learning for a two-week period, twice. It coincided with their planned opening of “High School Musical.”
“We held auditions and cast the show. We planned an opening night Oct. 16 and a 25% house capacity. We used tons of hand sanitizer and wore masks during rehearsal. But our plans were foiled again,” Edwards said.
Now Edwards and her students are moving on to plan B.
“We found a window Jan. 7-13, 2021 and rescheduled the show. We’re in rehearsal now. So plan on supporting us and seeing a fully mounted show in January. Our students are resilient—if we shut down again, we’ll go to plan C,” Edwards said.
Though Edwards’ class rolls and numbers look the same, about 25% of her students learned from home during first quarter.
“I hold Google Meet classes and have them film their performances. But even students who are in the classroom with me seem far away, and it’s hard to get to know new students when half of their face is covered. But they know they must follow these guidelines if they want to perform.
“The biggest inspiration is my students’ resilience. They are happy, grateful and focused. We carried on, and I’m so proud of them,” Edwards said.
Edwards hopes her students will get a lot of support for the show. “Tickets are available for ‘High School Musical,’ which plans to run Jan. 7, 9, 11 and 13 at 7 p.m. There are two matinees at 1 p.m. on Jan. 8 and 9. We adjusted our schedule to make sure we didn’t conflict with basketball games—we’re all in this together!”