Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Spot Young Company Employs Ingenuity to Produce Free Virtual Sondheim Showcase
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Kevin Wade films Elena Vorm and Hailey Jackson.
   
Thursday, December 17, 2020
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY NATALIE BATTISTONE

The Spot could have stayed dark this year, given the challenges the COVID pandemic has presented to the world of theater.

But The Spot Young Company was not to be denied. Even they couldn’t produce their normal tuition-free musical, the youngsters and their mentors from The Spot have come up with a Virtual Sondheim Showcase.

 
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Priya Merchant sings “COOL” in her recording bubble.
 

The show can be seen free of charge at www.spotsunvalley.com between Friday and Sunday, Dec. 18-20. Of course, those who feel compelled to make a donation may do so.

The show, produced by Peter Burke ad sponsored by Jane and Ed Springman and an anonymous donor,  features young singers from Sun Valley Community School, Wood River High School and Sage School.

Hailey Jackson and Elena Vorm sing “Losing My Mind/Not a Day Goes By;” Emma Desserault and Brady Giles, “Unworthy of Your Love;” Julia Ott and Wyatt Root, “It Takes Two;” Ella Boice and Charlie Coulter,   “Take Me to the World,” and Daria Brown and Priya Merchant, “If Mama Was Married.”

Mattian Monschke and Ethan Hunt sing “Move On;” Etienne Blumberg and Coco Vorm, “There’s Always a Woman,” and the entire Spot Young Company. “COOL,” and “Our Time.”

 
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R.L. Rowsey, Yanna Lantz and Samuel Mollner take part in an audio recording session.
 

They were directed by Brett Moellenberg, Yanna Lantz, Natalie Battistone, Peter Burke and Kevin Wade.

It was a very challenging process to ensure it would even happen, said Natalie Battistone.

“We’ve had to take this project day by day and simply hoped to make it to this point,” she said. “In order to still offer competitive theatrical training and an engaging learning experience despite the global pandemic, we had to create a safe alternative to our usual program.”

The Spot Cr3w auditioned students through virtual submissions. It then divided them into duets with  each assigned their own director and given individual rehearsal schedules.

To limit the number of people in The Spot space, the Cr3w transformed their lobby space, known as The Slot, into a studio and gutted The Spot, leaving just the play space and tech booth. Only two groups rehearsed each evening with a buffer period of 15 minutes between each rehearsal giving The Spot Cr3w time to disinfect and open up doors and roll-ups to increase airflow.

Actors and directors wore masks throughout the process, as well as the performance. Losing half the face to the masks forced each duo to tell the stories with physicality and camera movement.

“The challenge of performing in masks became more about ecstatic, specific, simple expression and storytelling,” said Battistone.

To minimize particles being expelled from the mouth while singing, The Spot pre-recorded all the tracks. R.L. Rowsey, The Spot Young Company’s music director, rehearsed each duet privately, recording accompanied tracks for each number.

Technical director Samuel Mollner devised a makeshift recording studio where two plastic bubbles with individual microphones were stationed. Each duet entered the bubble and recorded their scenes and songs, then placed microphone covers into plastic bags to be removed from the studio.

“This also meant actors were met with yet another challenge: Syncing their performance in real time with the audio track they recorded,” Battistone said.

Sun Valley Community School senior Gabe Delgado designed lights in advance of each recording in isolation. Battistone and Wade edited the showcase, syncing each group’s live performance with the pre-recorded audio tracks.

“It has been a feat of creativity and collaboration across the board and The Spot is proud to end 2020 with this exciting project,” Battistone said.

Hopefully, the next production won’t be so long in coming, though. The Spot hopes to announce a  virtual production of “The Lifespan of a Fact” soon.

“#Safespot is our motto right now,” said Battistone.


 

 

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