In mid-March, Boston Collegiate Charter Schools’ annual musical was canceled only hours before opening night due to concerns of the novel coronavirus. Being theater kids, you can imagine the hysterical reaction they had to their performance being canceled. After tearful speeches in the dressing rooms and exchanging hugs, the decision was made to have the cast perform one last time in front of an empty audience, recording it for the parents to watch on their computers.
The person who had to break it to them was Jenny Herron, the director of the school’s production of Mamma Mia and founder of the drama club.
“It's heartbreaking,” Herron expressed. “ ...So many students put so much work into it and not just work, but heart. It goes beyond just the hours that they spent working on it. It goes down into, like, what it means to them.”
Herron and the cast of twenty-one students have worked tirelessly on the play for three months, staying after school for hours every day. The effort put into the production makes the closing of it even more devastating.
“Nobody would decide that they're going to stay after school from three to six pretty much every day if they didn't love it,” she explained.
Having to perform an entire show for no one to see is not an ideal situation, and has never happened in the history of Boston Collegiate theater. Still, the lack of audience applause at the end of the numbers (other than the cheering from those offstage) and the silence after every punchline did not dim the energy and passion put into their final performance.
Regarding there being no crowd to elevate the show and feed off of, Herron still felt that, “Quite honestly, it was one of the best performances that I have seen in terms of the passion that was put into it from a high school show.”
With schools being closed for the rest of the school year, Herron still did not retire her director’s hat for the year. She is going to be putting on a high school play through Zoom, She Kills Monsters.
Herron’s process of deciding to do her first (and hopefully only) Zoom play came from her love of the community building that happens during the rehearsals.
“If I had to choose whether we would have the rehearsal process time together, and then not be able to do the show [or vice versa] I would choose the rehearsal time together in a heartbeat because that's where the real work happens. And that's where also like the community gets built. We're gonna just play on Zoom because we can still have those parts of it. You know, we can still have the community aspect, we can still have the ability to work together and grow together as actors.”
The quarantining of the nation has triggered a discussion about the future of online learning and using the internet for more untraditional things. Herron recognizes the difficulty of not every area having access to the internet, making it harder for such a transition to take place.
In terms of having plays performed on Zoom and other alternatives regarding the arts, she states, “Yeah, I think it is a good alternative for now. And if we continue to have [internet access], I think it'd be a good alternative in the future. But I guess I also think that it's probably not the only alternative.”
Despite COVID-19, the arts prove to be resilient.
“I feel like that experience convinced me that art is kind of flexible, and it's adaptable. And even if it's not happening in the traditional way, that doesn't mean that it can't still be free.”