Students save annual performance, construct virtual talent show

Students save annual performance, construct virtual talent show

By Afsoon Movahed

 When MCPS announced that schools were closing for the rest of the year due to COVID-19, the staff of Whitman’s annual talent show immediately wondered about the fate of their beloved school production. 

“It was upsetting when school closed because we were so close to our final product,” said Music Co-Director Sammy Strent. “But I was hopeful that some version of the show would still go on because our group is super committed and passionate.” 

Shortly after MCPS’ school closing announcement in March, Director Becca Marr hosted several Zoom video calls with the 2020 Talent Show crew to decide the show’s future. After careful consideration, the crew settled on preparing a pre-recorded montage of the show, which will be streamed to the Whitman community on June 30 at 7:00 P.M.

Following nearly 10 months of preparations, the cast didn’t want to cancel the show a few weeks from opening night, Marr said. The only parts left to complete were a final production week, commonly referred to as “hell week,” and the three scheduled performances. All other aspects of the show, including casting, rehearsals and tech week, were finished.

“We started brainstorming theme ideas and at the beginning of the school year,” said Music Director Caroline Muir. “We met to start planning for our audition process in January.”  

Though the full team is unable to meet together and record a complete production due to social distancing guidelines, the Talent Show crew has pieced each performance together from clips recorded at the homes of the performers. Music engineer Renz Johnson and Sound Director Rowan Mohan have been working with performers to gather recordings from various acts. These recordings will be stitched together to create a full performance using the program GarageBand.

“We have one person record their part, and then we send that to the next person, who adds on to it and so forth. It’s all through GarageBand,” Mohan said. “We’ve just been trying to keep it as inclusive as possible while adapting to the new format.”

Assistant Music Director Topher Leonard utilized his longtime hobby of working with Adobe Premiere Pro, a semi-professional video editing software, to create the final product.

“I ask each person for a recording of themselves kind of playing along to their part of the act,” Leonard said. “Then I take that and match it with their audio to create a sort of montage.”

Although the new production process has been mostly successful, some problems have emerged. Many students left musical instruments at Whitman due to the sudden school closure on March 13. As a result, some performers are unable to fulfill their original roles in bands and have been placed into new acts. 

In addition, some groups are unable to participate altogether, including the Whitman Poms. 

“We had a really sick dance prepared. Our seniors put so much work into our dances,” said poms dancer Lisa Ota. “It’s sad that we aren’t able to showcase that anywhere.”

 Despite these setbacks, the Talent Show crew encourages everyone in the Whitman community to watch the final product, Marr said. 

“This show is very meaningful to all of us since most of us, especially the tech staff, are seniors,” said senior stage manager Ananyaa Malhotra. “This year’s show will be our goodbye to Whitman drama.” 

Aside from simply watching the show, the crew asks that viewers put the money they would typically use to buy tickets towards Whitman Drama’s fundraiser instead. 

“We put a lot into the show and now we aren’t really going to see that revenue,” Malhotra said. “The money we get from shows feeds that cycle for the next year.” 

When the senior Talent Show crew imagined their last Talent Show at Whitman, the current arrangement is far from what they thought of. However, the crew has stayed optimistic and put their heart into producing something they will remember and be proud of.

“I feel really good knowing that we’ve been able to communicate with everyone and still try to put something together to keep our community strong.” Malhotra said. “One of the most important parts of our program is just the community that it brings.”