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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 1 year ago

Dr. Phillips thespians back on stage with live-streamed performances

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The Panthers performed ‘The Addams Family: Quarantined Concert Version’ Feb. 5 and 6 via livestream.
by: Danielle Hendrix Former Associate Editor

They’re mysterious and spooky — and, more than anything, they’re just happy to be back on stage.

Students in Dr. Phillips High School’s theater magnet program were able to perform “The Addams Family: Quarantined Concert Version” — their first show in a year — on Feb. 5 and 6.

The performances were livestreamed, and no live audiences were permitted, but for everyone involved, the chance to get back into doing what they love is a gift.

In a non-COVID-19 era, Theater Director Jason Whitehead already would have had next season’s shows planned and usage rights secured. However, he said, the biggest challenge is finding a show that allows virtual streaming.

“The writers for a lot of shows have quickly adapted their properties to make them palatable in this socially distanced, quarantined world we live in right now,” Whitehead said. “In the fall, we didn’t know what was available and what (Orange County Public Schools) would allow, and then they started releasing their updated protocols for performances in a COVID world. Then you had to go back to the licensing houses and see, ‘Well, what’s available to be digitally performed?’” 

Once Whitehead stumbled upon the “quarantine concert” version of “The Addams Family,” he knew both the students and virtual audience would love it. The script is written so the characters must be separated, which helped him with blocking. 

There still were numerous safety protocols he and his students had to follow, such as constant physical awareness of one another and hand sanitizing during rehearsals.

“Our students on the crew and the shop — we have a new closing wipe-down cleaning procedure that we’ve had to add to our normal daily routine, making sure every drill and tool gets wiped down with a Clorox wipe or sprayed down with a disinfectant spray,” he said. “The fortunate thing is … they understand we’ve been given a gift being able to do it, so they don’t want to risk it.”

“The Addams Family: Quarantined Concert Version” is a silly, lighthearted show meant to entertain the audience and make them laugh during this time.

What’s more, the school’s TV/film magnet students also were involved to film the performance. It was prerecorded, so those involved also got the chance to watch the show at home with their families.

“We certainly miss the immediacy of having a live audience — it’s such a different experience — but I think right now for the safety of the students as well as the patrons, the wisest choice was to not involve a live audience yet,” Whitehead said. “It’s our hope that as the year goes on, we can bring back live audiences.”

There are three more performances coming up for the theater program this season, and all will be livestreamed, as well. Those interested should follow the theater program on Facebook and Instagram for more information on upcoming shows and streaming dates. 

“(The students) were just so eager to have their hands on art again and to be in a familiar process, even though the rules are different right now,” he said. 

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Danielle Hendrix was an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

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