COVID Afternoons

Performing Arts and Athletics face challenges amidst the pandemic

Cast+members+rehearse+for+fall+play.

Cast members rehearse for fall play.

Jessica Choe, Editor

Performing Arts

Drama

Dr. Palmer found a creative way to both conserve traditional theatrical settings and adhere to social compact guidelines. When she first realized that the Academy would not be fully in-person in the fall, she doubted the possibility of mounting and directing a play while keeping socially distanced altogether. Yet, knowing that there was a strong contingent of students who wanted to be part of the fall play, she read extensively to select a play that would enable the actors to participate actively without violating school protocols. 

It was then she came across Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith. Orlandersmith portrays the fictitious stories of nine individuals heavily affected by the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a black teenager killed by a white policeman in Missouri. As Orlandersmith initially intended her play to be a one-man show, the format perfectly suited what Dr. Palmer has been looking for. “I knew that I selected the right play, at the right time, with the right people,” Dr. Palmer told The Governor

The play is composed of vignettes and monologues of nine characters, thus there is no need for the actors to interact physically with another. The stage is set up in a way that does not breach the social compact guidelines: a total of nine plastic boxes, arranged in a three-by-three grid, are stacked up on top of each other. Live actors are enclosed in each of these plastic boxes, set six feet apart from one another. In the eyes of the audience, the vertically set up stage resembles an apartment building with the actors looking out the windows. The staging also easily adapts to virtual performances if that becomes necessary.

Dr. Palmer voiced her concern about the technical issues that may arise during the live performance. When asked about the biggest challenge, she replied, “The challenges I am anticipating will be the technology aspect of it.”

 

Music

Mr. Currie Huntington, the Director of Choral Music, and Mrs. Barbara Friend, the Director of Instrumental Music, faced similar obstacles in planning the music program. “My biggest concern was how to keep the ensemble going and how to rehearse,” Mrs. Friend told The Governor. “How do we move forward and build a community when we really can’t be together in person?” Mr. Huntington agrees. “To me, music-making is about the magic that happens when we are all in a room together much more than what the final product is about.” He explains, “We spent all semester being in a room together to get to the final event. For me, it’s about the lost magic.”

Holding auditions for the First proved uneasy for Mr. Huntington. Although it was desirable to have a record of the singers’ video submissions, he faced limitations for being unable to sit together and have a conversation about music with the singers. “We are used to serendipitous moments,” Mr. Huntington explains. “We were building a culture of musicality, so not having that is just hard.” 

Although Zoom works as an excellent facilitator for bringing together students and teachers in conversation, the ensemble performance aspect of Zoom is lacking. This has forced both Mr. Huntington and Mrs. Friend to direct their focus on musical discussions and small groups as opposed to playing together. “Choral music has the benefit of text,” Mr. Huntington commented, “so we have a chance to talk about what it is and understand what we are singing.” Instrumental music does not have such advantages. While Mrs. Friend plans to use a portion of the rehearsal time going through harder portions or learning about the composer, she intends to use breakout rooms to work in smaller groups more frequently. This way, students can take turns unmuting themselves and get feedback from one another. 

Another challenge instrumentalists living in different time zones face is that they are not allowed to play their instruments during rehearsal times, lest they disturb their neighbors. To solve this problem, Mrs. Friend has been attempting to find another time for international students to rehearse. 

As the Academy becomes an entirely virtual school at the time of the winter concert, it will take a completely different format from previous years. Singers and instrumentalists will be asked to submit recordings of themselves, which would then be edited by a professional team hired by the Academy. 

The final products of the ensembles are scheduled to release on December 12, 2020.

 

Athletics

The athletics program, too, had to undergo many changes to meet the social distancing guidelines. For the first two weeks of the academic year, students were allowed to stay on-campus after the academic day only two days a week. Then, four–finally when the borders came in just a few weeks ago, students were free to stay and participate in the athletics program five days a week. It was a slow build-up, but such measures had to be taken to ensure that the community did not open up too hurriedly. 

The Athletic Department also decided to take advantage of the ISL rule variation this year to allow winter and spring sports to practice this fall. Mixing up the multiple seasons means less focus on one sport, but enables athletes to prepare for future seasonsand hopefully competition. Fall sports are not playing any games, and most are not even scrimmaging yet to ensure that everyone keeps six feet distance. Instead, athletes work on their skill sets. For example, the field hockey team might focus on strengthening stick skills one day, do drills or run on other days. 

Another issuethe social distance guidelines do not allow for Varsity and JV tryouts. This causes complications for students who wish to earn a varsity letter this season. “New students, if they make the team a year later, will be given a letter retroactively,” Mrs. Claudia Barcomb, the Director of Afternoon Programs and Athletics, explained. The afternoon program review committee and coaches will review the decision along with Mrs. Barcomb. Returning Varsity players automatically receive a varsity letter. 

Fall sports are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Spring and winter sports take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Athletes are also given a choice to train physically through a strength and conditioning program, during which students work on flexibility, run, or do bodyweight exercises, push-ups, and ab workouts. Recreational fitness programs, such as recreational tennis or softball, are also offered as alternative choices. 

Those who are not able to be at the Academy may engage in an activity of their choice and get credit for their participation. Some have been cycling, taking boxing classes, or participating in community service. “We created some opportunities that we didn’t have before,” Mrs. Barcomb said.