HDA’s Annual Winter One-Acts Zoom to the Stage
On February 4 and 5 and February 18 and 19, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) performs their Winter One-Acts.
As the drama department gets increasingly accustomed to the hybrid model that Hopkins has been in since the fall, the quality and efficiency of their productions have skyrocketed. For the Winter One-Acts Teacher Hope Hartup has refined every aspect of the show’s production, allowing for a cleaner fully virtual theatrical experience while still managing to keep 40 students from grades 9-12 involved.
From start to finish, the process of designing this year’s One-Acts has been unlike any in Hopkins’s history. First, Hartup had to choose one-acts that she felt could be performed effectively over Zoom. For this, she chose; 10 Ways to Survive Life in Quarantine by Don Zolidis, tips and tricks on ways to entertain yourself at home; Bad Auditions on Camera by Ian & Carrie McWethy, the story of a casting director with one day to fill an essential role; and Help Desk by Don Zolidis, a comedy about the weird world of telemarketing.
To begin the casting process, Hartup “used a Google sign-up form for basic information (grade, schedule, etc.) and had students record their monologue on Flipgrid,” a digital bulletin board. Hartup felt this system “actually worked out really well. The students were all prepared, maybe a bit more relaxed because they knew that they could re-record their video, and I was able to view them more than once as well.” Felipe Perez ’22 agrees. “The virtual auditions had us send a video... with this, we could choose which takes we liked and which we didn’t; allowing for much more time and creative leeway.” The casting was easier for Hartup than the fall show, It’s a Wonderful Life, because Hartup “was able to cast students from either cohort into the role I felt they would find success” as opposed to the students being cast by cohort as in the fall.
Despite the auditions and final performance being fully virtual, Hartup has chosen to utilize the hybrid system for rehearsals. Hartup says that “during the week [rehearsals] are a mix of virtual and live. On weekends they will all be remote, which works fine, because that will be our platform when presenting them.” Hartup is hopeful that a fully virtual show will work better than masked in-person performances because “we will be able to see everyone’s face,” making it easier to convey the comedy the actors are tasked with presenting. Overall, Hartup is thrilled “that the students and I have figured out a way to make the One Acts happen.”
While Hartup and her actors have found things to look forward to in this foreign style of production, they still face new challenges. For Hartup, one of the biggest obstacles is the varying capabilities of the technologies students have access to at home. Hartup feels she may be forced to “bring a few students up on campus to perform, since all of the school computers are connected to the internet via an ethernet cable.” Co-Head of the HDA Drew Slager ’21 agreed with Hartup: “Having virtual rehearsals means you have to deal with issues like wifi problems” Assistant stage manager Yaqub Bajwa ’22 had a different perspective: “The rehearsals are easier to coordinate because they are over Zoom and the performance itself has fewer nitty-gritty things that we need to keep track of. It’s definitely going to be different, but also one of the most interesting shows I’ve been a part of.” Perez found himself seeing both the positive and negative of performing over Zoom: “Often I have to remind myself to look at the camera on my computer rather than my zoom viewfinder while I’m acting. Some actors also have had to use green screens, ring lights, and make changes to their wifi in order for things to run smoothly. What’s great about these one-acts is that they’re written specifically to be performed virtually. It makes it a lot easier on the actors and on the audience to believe what they’re seeing.”
Slager also worries about the aggressive pacing of this show. He said, “The one-acts are also happening a lot faster than any other Hopkins show I’ve done because... we got the cast list four weeks before the show and didn’t start rehearsal until three weeks before.” Despite Slager’s reservations about the time-crunch, he recognized that “being at home every other week makes it easier and everyone is working hard to put this show together.” Because each member of the cast is performing under different circumstances at home, they each face varied difficulties.
Hartup has picked lighthearted shows that have the ability to uplift students and teachers, making them temporarily forget the larger issues humanity is currently facing and focus on the joy happening right in front of them. And, while these one-acts present altered necessities, Perez, Slager, and Bajwa can all agree that it will be an interesting show to be a part of. Ranease Brown ’21 has even stronger feelings towards the one-acts. “Getting to perform in any way has been a joy. It’s been nice having our HDA family back together and adapting to a different style of theater. There are no audience reactions, so the show moves a little faster. It’s been a challenge for sure, but seeing how many people auditioned and have asked to help just shows the amount of love our program has for this art. My senior year in HDA looks a little different, but I’m just happy to have something!”