Theatre & Film Collaborate to Bring Back the Spring Musical! (By Ivan Klousia, Director of Theatre)

When the appearance of COVID-19 propelled St. Michael’s into distance learning in March of 2019, no one knew the extent of the changes that lay ahead. Once we all began to realize the seriousness of the pandemic, however, one thing became a stark reality: live, in-person performances would be impossible. For the St. Michael’s Theatre Department, this derailed plans for the spring musical last year, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Initially, we hoped we would be back in school in time to finish preparations, but when Dr. Nichols announced we would not be returning to in-person classes for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, sadly, we had to shut down the production. However, in the spirit of “the show must go on” and with the collaboration of the St. Michael's film department, we have “re-booted” the show with a completely different focus. Rather than planning for our normal, in-person theatrical event, we decided to make a movie! With the cooperation of the play’s licensing company, Music Theatre International and their streaming partner, Broadway Media, St. Michael’s has arranged to present three “scheduled content” broadcasts of the show April 30 – May 2.
Instead of recording the show all at once, we turned to Mr. Dziedzic and St. Michael’s Film Department to plan and produce a film/theatre collaboration. According to Mr. D, “It was a blast for the film department to get to help the theatre team bring Beauty and the Beast to life. It really benefited the growth of our filmmakers as they learned to work in a slightly different style where they were purely 'camera focused' as opposed to a traditional film set. I think it was also beneficial for the talent on stage to get a chance to act for the camera instead of an audience, honing the discipline and skill set that that entails. Our ability to work between disciplines is the real strength of the St. Michael's Fine Arts department.”

There have been some unique opportunities for a few interesting theatre/film crossover components in this project, including a drone shot inside the theatre and a montage sequence that had two of the characters chasing each other across campus. Shooting began at the end of March and will continue through the end of April.

It’s been a great challenge in many ways, but a tremendous opportunity for our actors and technicians to learn a different process. It has also brought together our film and theatre departments for a natural collaboration. Like many films, scenes were shot out of order, so keeping track of what is supposed to happen, as well as what props and backgrounds are needed is an interesting puzzle. There is a level of faith involved that it will all turn out well. You never know about the product until you see the recording, but the process sure has been rewarding!
Senior Alyssa Garlepp, who plays Mrs. Potts in the show, notes, “It’s definitely been a different experience from doing musicals live. I miss the audience’s reactions and immediacy of live theater, but I’ve learned about acting in front of a camera, and the importance of detail, precision, and exact facial expressions. It’s definitely been different doing each scene several times with different camera shots and angles each time. But honestly it’s been really exciting and new! I haven’t had any experience with screen acting and now we all have a taste of that.”

This show has also given our stagecraft students an opportunity to work directly on some key props and set pieces for the show. Freshman William Garza created the Beast’s chair for the production. This unique piece was thoughtfully designed and constructed with the Beast's character in mind. According to William, “I enjoyed working on the Beast’s chair. I used the movie as an inspiration and then put my own spin on it. I had never worked on any project this big, and I was very happy with the final product.”
Once again, this project shows the resiliency of our students and the school community, who have repeatedly shown the ability to adapt to challenges and turn them into learning opportunities! Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is set to broadcast via Broadway Media on Friday, April 30 – Sunday, May 2. Times and access information to come soon!

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