Drama, choir classes adapt

Miramonte performing arts students find alternative formats


Heather Shinn

Last spring the Miramonte Drama Department performed a play online after in-person learning was cancelled because of quarantine orders.

The curtain rises up and students feel a queasy yet exciting feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Audience members rush in, and tickets sell out in a flash. These are the typical markings of a performance at Miramonte High School.

The drama and choir departments usually host plays and performances throughout the school year, showcasing their talent and love for the arts. However, due to COVID-19, both departments have had to regroup and find new ways to perform. 

“We do plan on having virtual performances,” senior drama student Mina Jenab said. “Ms.  (Heather) Cousins has always been a very hardworking and driven teacher and has never given up on us. She loves to say how theater never quits and can never be stopped. We’re planning our fall play already! She hasn’t told us what it is yet, but we’re definitely going to be performing over some virtual platform. Last spring, we did a play over Zoom for the first time, but this year we’ll be improving our methods and changing some of our techniques so that it is even better.” 

Although drama teacher Cousins has concealed the title of the upcoming virtual performance, she’s hopeful and determined that students will continue to perform and apply their skills to the adjusted stage. 

“Last spring, the Miramonte Players performed their spring production live on Zoom. This fall, we will be stepping up the use of technology for an even more polished and professional production,” Cousins said. “The play will livestream on Showtix4u.com on November 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. As theater artists, we currently have two choices: either we call it quits and pursue other interests, or we adapt and evolve to this new virtual stage. We have chosen the latter, and it is exciting to be a part of this new revolutionary theater platform.”

Unfortunately, seniors enrolled in drama face the possibility of not performing on campus during their last year in the program. 

 “I am upset, but not completely heartbroken,” Jenab said. “The way I see it, this situation is what we make it. I could spend all my energy being upset about not being able to be with my classmates in person, or I could just appreciate the time I do have with them.”

Stagecraft is a class within the drama department for students interested in the design and creative process of theater. Since Stagecraft is a hands-on, interactive course where students learn how to build sets and props and manage lights and sound, learning online has proven to be difficult. Even so, Cousins still plans on having the students create from home. 

“It’s for sure harder to do this class virtually because it’s very interactive, but it’s still so much fun with all of Cousins’ activities! So far we are learning virtually through group projects, and getting exposure to many different Stagecraft crews,” junior Stagecraft student Anji Bhatthal said. 

The choir department also plans to figure out a way to perform virtually, but its members don’t know precisely how they’ll achieve this. 

 “Essentially, my particular skill set when it comes to teaching is really being challenged during online learning,” said Meredith Hawkins, director of Choral Music, AP Music Theory, and Musical Theater Workshop. “My classroom is highly collaborative, and rehearsing and performing together is the majority of what we do. We are making it work, but I am now faced with learning how to become a sound and video editor (on top of everything else). It can be fun, but it’s no match for being in the same room and singing together. There is no adequate replacement for that. I hope my students will be patient and hang in there because I have to believe we will be able to do that again this year,” 

Within the choir department, there are different levels: Choral Performance 1 & 2 (Mixed Chorus, Men’s Ensemble, Women’s Ensemble), AP Music Theory, Choral Performance 3 (Bella Voce/Concert Choir), Choral Performance 4 (Chamber Singers), and Musical Theater Workshop. Each choir that performs usually has a repertoire of songs up their sleeve for each showcase. Since everything will be virtual, the choir classes plan on finding an interactive and new way to produce their music.

“I know in Chamber we are working on learning a few songs on our own and then going to combine them to make it sound like a complete song. We’re working on a way to present our songs to the public, so we still have the opportunity to sing and perform,” junior choir student Aubrey Rosso said.

Without the intensity and enthusiasm they receive from their peers in class and on stage, the choirs are developing new strategies to give passionate performances.

“Because we have access to different kinds of software, we’re all learning how to use it and adapting together, and it’s definitely exciting to be singing in a new way. Once again, it’s not the same as being able to sing in the choir room together, but it’s still just as fun,” junior choir student Anaya Budayr said.