Despite the pandemic, the show must go on. That’s the thespian spirit infusing the Norman Performance Company of Beverly Hills High School (BHHS). The troupe will present “Hamlet” on Nov. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. as a livestream on YouTube. Senior Max Love told the Courier he has “studied Shakespeare for three years in anticipation of playing his dream role,” the lead in Hamlet.
The Courier also spoke with BHHS Performing Arts Department/ Theatre Artistic Director and Instructor, Karen “Kaz” Chandler about the production.
Is this the first time you’ve livestreamed a play?
No, actually we’ve been in a normal year performance schedule as much as possible. In September and October my Drama Lab students Zoomed into primary and elementary classes as fairytale characters and did monologues and movement activities with the kids. In early October we did ‘Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 plays in 60 minutes.’ This was 22 students in short 1-3-minute comedy sketches and was streamed live through Broadway on Demand, with the added component that the audience could phone in their choice of order of performance for scenes. On Oct. 29 and 30 we did a livestream on YouTube for free. It was a radio type version of ‘Dracula, Comedy of Terrors.’ Actors were costumed with virtual backgrounds, sound effects, everything we could do, and audience members could comment through the show. So, going into ‘Hamlet,’ we feel pretty confident in our process and abilities. I worked all summer with an improv troupe and other teachers on Zoom to learn all the tricks and ideas for performing virtually.
How do these new formats affect the acting?
The hardest part is the limitation of movement and the inability to touch one another. Also, virtual backgrounds can be glitchy and sometimes wipe out the movement of a hand or body part. It’s also an honor system of learning the lines and not ‘reading them’ from your screen. We have been able to play around a little with looking left or right as if you are talking to the ‘square’ next to you. That’s much harder.
What are the technical challenges you face?
It’s live. We are adding a pre-recorded part to ‘Hamlet’ that will play in a Zoom square as the screen is going on. Tricky, but it will work. Thomas Zoesch, our tech theatre specialist has been key in doing all the live streaming homework. Lots of training has taken place with cameras off and on, hiding non video participants and the like. Audience members can comment during the show. We found the ‘yeahs’ and ‘way to go’ and “wow that was cool” in the comments are the next best thing to applause.
Please describe some of the
challenges of rehearsing and putting on a performance during COVID.
We are missing the connection we have with one another. We are missing the intense physical training we do as an ensemble that’s really about connecting with one another. But it is what it is, and we are firmly committed to continuing to train. When it all returns, we are ready. We are learning new ways to reach our audience. My seniors and juniors, who have the roles in this show, really love Shakespeare and have been waiting to do a production. It’s royalty-free, so that suits the fact that we can offer this for free. I’m really impressed with the commitment and level of skill shown by this ensemble.
To watch the show, log on to linktr.ee/bhhhstheatre.