Audiences pressed “play” this past weekend to experience the School’s first-ever virtual musical, a performance of “Now. Here. This.”
The show, which explores some of life’s most profound questions, aired from Friday, February 26, through Sunday, February 28.
Because the Masters version of the off-Broadway production was entirely video-based, students could participate remotely or on campus. And, by embracing a non-traditional show and expanding the set to students' homes and the entire Masters School campus, the 40 cast members had more agency. “The students had instructions for what to film, but they had a lot of creative control and ability to interpret those suggestions,” explained the musical’s director and upper school theater teacher Meg O’Connor.
The nature of the show also meant more improvisation. “We had planned to shoot a dance number in the Experimental Theater on a day that turned into a snow day,” O’Connor shared, “So, I challenged the cast to film themselves outside in the snow doing the dance. Not only did the kids have fun dancing outside in the falling snow, but we ended up with something even better than our original plan.”
Producing a virtual musical was a new experience – both for the students and the faculty. Jiarong Xie ’24, who participated virtually, said that it was “kind of hard to practice the songs and scenes, since there’s nobody I could practice with.” And, since Xie didn’t see or hear performances from other cast members, it was “a surprise when watching the final version.” O’Connor noted that, for the artistic team, which included fellow performing arts faculty members Katie Meadows as music director and John-Alec Raubeson as audio production engineer, “Between the audio and all the video, there were probably 1,000 files zipping around our Google Drives.”
Participating in a musical with such a unique format was “exciting and scary,” Sam New ’21 said. “I didn’t know what to expect!” New noted that the most rewarding part of the experience was watching the show last weekend. Xie, who hadn’t participated in a musical before, appreciated the opportunity to “try new things” and shared that “seeing the process of producing a remote musical is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“In stepping out of their comfort zones and working to produce a wholly different show, the students’ faith and hard work were rewarded,” O’Connor said. “They had so much fun. That inspires me, because it takes real bravery to join something that you can’t quite wrap your mind around.”