Wednesday, April 1, was supposed to be opening night of this year’s JGMS musical, FROZEN JR. But with schools closed due to the COVID-19 virus, and no clear idea of whether and when the production could be performed, the directing staff instead convened a Zoom meeting for cast and crew at 4 pm, the original curtains-up time.
The idea stemmed from cast parent Sheila Mehta-Green, a market segment manager for Apple and an experienced host of Zoom and other online meetings. Since director and JGMS music teacher Amy Budka and the rest of the production staff were already getting up to speed on using online collaboration tools with students, this meeting provided a great opportunity to test out the process.
Fifty-eight middle schoolers and seven adults joined the meeting. The directing staff opened with words of hope that the show could still be performed somehow at a future date, and then the virtual mic was passed to any of the students who wanted to speak.
“Seeing the JGMS Frozen Family’s faces on Zoom brought out some of the feelings we haven’t had a chance to talk about or share yet,” Mrs. Budka noted after the meeting. “My favorite part was hearing that folks had so much fun with the rehearsals, because that’s what it’s really all about. The performances (whenever and however they happen) will be icing on the cake. But I’ll be honest, some of those faces looked a bit glum. It’s sad for all of us, no doubt about it.”
Katrina Faulstich, BHS choral teacher and director of the 6th-grade chorus, also popped in to say hello and share sympathies with the FROZEN cast. The high school’s production of LEGALLY BLONDE is similarly on hold. As Ms. Faulstich noted, “We’re all hoping we can perform, but I’m so thankful for the time with my cast, and I know you’re thankful for the time with your cast.”
Some of the leads chose to run scenes with their costars, putting everyone back in the mindset of rehearsals. The limits of technology meant the cast couldn’t sing together at the same time, but valiant efforts were made nonetheless.
A few highlights from the students’ comments:
- “You guys are all so talented. I’m so sad that this is my last year doing the musical, but I’m looking forward to doing it in high school.”—Cate G., 8th grade
- “Every practice was so fun and awesome, and I really miss coming every week. This show is really fun to do, and I miss FROZEN. I really wish we can do some kind of performance in the future, because that would be great.”—Charlotte D., 8th grade
- “I’m really disappointed we had to cancel the practices, because every practice we showed so much improvement. I miss everyone here.”—Chloe W., 6th grade
- “We’ve had so much fun through all this. And whether or not we get to perform, it was great to work with all of you.”—Evan K., 8th grade
- “I know this is really inconvenient—not just the musical, but also sports and other things being canceled. But I think we just need to make the best of the time at home, and just embrace it.”—Sam K., 7th grade
- “For the 8th graders, I’m sorry this isn’t the ideal case for your last MS musical, but I’m still really hoping we can do it.”—Jennie N., 7th grade
- “I really do hope we can all get together sometime, even if it’s not in front of a big audience. I really enjoyed the time we did have together.”—Maddie M., 8th grade
- “I really miss rehearsal with everyone, and I want everyone to be safe and to wash your hands.”—Jacob C., 8th grade
- “I feel like this year everyone just had a genuinely good time. We made a lot of memories—a lot of funny things happened at rehearsals. I hope we can still do something with the show.”—Ava D., 8th grade
As expected with a group of extroverted middle-school performers, there was some silliness, and many FROZEN-related jokes were made. As sixth-grader Sophia A. noted, “For the first time in forever, we’re all quarantined insiiiiide.” And seventh-grader John M. encouraged his castmates to “stay healthy, and stay hygge,” a nod to one of the show’s big dance numbers. The students also enjoyed seeing everyone’s pets and playing with the different Zoom background options.
The students and directing staff are hoping to do another call while schools are still closed.