In the first performance of its kind, the spotlight turns to the limelight.
In its debut digital theatre production, Blaine High School Theatre presents “In the Limelight 2021” Nov. 20-22, a variety show featuring songs, monologues and the school’s competition one-act. Featured short plays will include “La Mouche” by Stephen Bittrich, “1-800” by Joseph Sorrentino and “Leona and Myles are Breaking Up” by Andy Rakerd.
It will be a performance unlike any other put on before at the school. For one, there will be no live in-person audience. For another, the format and selection will enable students to take more of the artistic reins as they bring a theatre production online.
“’In the Limelight’ is great because it gives students a lot of creative ownership,” Blaine director Andy Rakerd said. “While our other productions are typically directed by drama teachers, a lot of ‘In the Limelight’ is student-led and student-created. I think that’s really cool to see.”
“My sophomore year is when I really started to get involved at theatre at Blaine, and I saw the Limelight Showcase 2020 and I was drawn to the student-directed plays, and knew I wanted to do one myself,” student director Michaela Clark said. “When I was signing up for this position, I was looking at many one acts. I read countless scripts, but none of them really stuck out to me. Then I found ‘La Mouche’ by Stephan Bittrich. After I found the show, I read the script and then found a performance by another high school on YouTube and I knew it was the winner. It was entertaining, random and low-tech maintenance.”
It will be a performance fit for all ages, with a little bit to enjoy for everyone – cast included.
“I enjoy Limelight because I really like the variety of it,” student director Raeann Berk said. “I’ve done one acts, thespys and now student-directing, so I’ve been involved in a lot of different aspects of it and it’s a really great experience.”
“(My favorite part is) being able to work with an amazing cast and crew! They work really hard and we just have a really fun time together,” Clark said.
The production will be much different than a typical performance on a stage. There have been new challenges and new things to learn, but with it the potential to expand on ideas to entertain audiences into the future.
“I directed a 10-minute play last year for the Acting III class at BHS, and I really liked the show that I did and wanted to bring it to Limelight this year,” Berk said. “However, in the show, they’re slow dancing the whole time, so obviously that’s not Covid-friendly. So I had to find another show. While picking the show, I based my options around whether or not we could social distance, or how hard rehearsals would be, and I’ve never had to think about that before. I haven’t had any rehearsals yet because I picked a show with virtually no blocking to make it easier on the actors.”
“It is more difficult in an online format,” Clark said. “We have had one in-person rehearsal so far, but even then it is harder to pull off because of social distancing guidelines. We are making it work, and it is adding a fun challenge to our show. My cast and crew have also been very flexible and patient so they have made this process much easier on me which I greatly appreciate.”
One of the biggest differences has been the need to use technology not found in a typical stage performance. It has caused some unexpected challenges for the cast to work through, but ones they have maneuvered past as the debut nears.
“‘L and M’ was actually written specifically to be performed over a video chat,” Rakerd said. “It’s wildly different from trying to direct a show on the stage. It feels a little more like film-making because you have to pay attention to things like lighting, angles and sound quality. Also, unfortunately, there have been some tech issues such as poor internet connections that grind things to a stop from time to time. However, I feel really privileged to be working with a great group of students who are tech-savvy and excited to step up to the challenge.”
“This show has made me a little nervous these past few weeks,” Clark said. “I have not been worried about the show itself being well done, but the filming aspect of it. Editing videos has never been my strong suit, so that is my biggest concern at the moment. I know we can put on a great performance, however technology concerns me affecting our final product. We are also adapting the show to include Covid in some jokes and on set, which I am really looking forward to!”
Above all, the entire cast and crew is excited to be putting on a show in the first place. After having to unexpectedly cancel last spring’s musical due to the pandemic and uncertainty throughout the year, there’s an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to be able to perform, along with a lot of extra work preparing to make sure the show can be pulled off.
“It was devastating for all of the students involved, and for me (last spring),” Rakerd said. “Nobody saw it coming. This time, however, Blaine Theatre is ready for this challenge. We’re going to keep making theatre happen, even without a live audience. We are excited to take this year to expand our understanding of what theatre can be!”
“I’m just excited to see how it all turns out,” Berk said. “Obviously we have to do it this way because of the pandemic, but it also opens doors for future productions and learning how to do everything online can be really beneficial in the future, even not in the pandemic anymore.”
“I am very excited to see the final product of not only ‘La Mouche,’ but our whole showcase! Obviously we have never had to use this format before, and we could never have expected this year to happen, so I am really looking forward to seeing how this plays out,” Clark said.
The cast list includes director Andrew Rakerd, technical director Meckenna Holman, student directors Raeann Berk, Michaela Clark and Brie Peterman and stage manager Amy Nguyen and is presented by Blaine High School Theatre and Thespian Troupe 4745.