Authentic Community Theatre takes its showcase to cyberspace
Authentic Community Theatre usually presents its semester-end showcases live twice a year.
But this year, ACT presented its Spring Showcase online.
The event, which took place April 18, was a creative effort to carry on the tradition despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
ACT offers classes and workshops, and presents ACTjr Children's Theatre, Teen Theatre and Community Theatre productions throughout the year. ACT performing arts academy program Manager Michelle Steshoski said that in past years, the showcase has taken place at venues including area church auditoriums and The Arc of Washington County gymnasium.
“It's like a variety show showcasing each class for about 12 minutes,” she said. “There is singing, dancing and acting, with monologues or scenes, as well as selections for students who take voice lessons.”
Around 50 students usually participate.
ACTjr productions manager Britney Soto said this spring, in light of COVID-19-related restrictions, organizers knew they would need to come up with a different plan.
“Our students work so hard every semester to put together selections for our seasonal showcases,” she said. “This semester, they have continued to work with instructors virtually in the hope of performing this month for family and friends.”
With the possibility of an in-person showcase off the table, ACT staff arranged to roll out a Facebook-based version.
Supported by their parents, students submitted video performances of pieces that were compiled by ACT's Zayna Burnham. The videos were uploaded with live introductions and remain online for ongoing viewing. Zoom videos featuring multiple students simultaneously also are included.
Soto said the online showcase offers an option to donate, “since we typically sell tickets for the showcase and obviously can't do it that way this time.” At past live showcases, tickets cost $10 per person with proceeds going back into ACTjr program operations.
“We're hopeful that more people will be able to see it since they can view from home instead of having to go somewhere at a specific day and time,” Soto said.
Steshoski, who teaches acting classes, said she believes the showcase will connect with a wider-reaching audience than usual.
“Hopefully we are reaching friends and family members who don't get to come and watch live. People who live farther away can come to the Facebook page to see their grandchildren, nieces and nephews perform,” she said.
Isaac Hege, 17, of Waynesboro, Pa., participated in Timothy Vincent's homeschool acting class. Isaac performed in ACT's productions of “Les Miserables” and “West Side Story,” and took ACT classes for the past two semesters.
Though he preferred the standard live showcase format to the video-recorded version, he said he was happy to have another option “to share what we have learned.”
Noah Hege, 15, who takes classes with his brother Isaac, said he learned a lot this semester about “facial expression, movement, how to talk, act and react.”
For the past month or more, the online class has been working on scenes from the 1940's dark comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace” by Joseph Kesselring. Noah was cast as Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who struggles to deal with his crazy, murderous family.
Though a live performance of scenes was not feasible for the online showcase format, the cast performed in a readers' theatre style.
“There wasn't much other way to go,” Noah said. “It was disappointing to not do the live showcase, but the class itself was very good and I'm glad my parents let me go and paid for it and stuff.”
He learned a number of skills through past classes and performances, and the acting class “helped solidify it,” he said.
Steshoski said the online showcase was the best option, under current circumstances, to share the growth of the students.
“These kids worked so hard,” she said. “I think they had to work doubly hard with us not being able to be there, so we really wanted to showcase them to our ACT family.”
Top photo: Britney Soto, left, and Michelle Steshoski of Authentic Community Theatre, helped organize the group's Online Spring Showcase to take the place of the usual live performance which was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. (Submitted photo)