When Performing Clubs Go Remote
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, performing clubs are making adjustments to guarantee the safety of all members.
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Due to current remote circumstances, performing art clubs at Stuyvesant are adapting to ensure the safety of students as they start developing their shows. Many have opted to have fully remote practices, while others are meeting in small groups. Here’s how some performing clubs are changing their procedures:
StuySquad plans to continue holding a showcase for performers this year as they traditionally have. Dance crews will hold rehearsals virtually, and the season will conclude with an online showcase.
This year’s StuySquad show will be modified to accommodate viewers and performers during the pandemic through a webinar that will feature videos of each dance crew performing in late January. “We’re hoping for the final show to be a webinar where people can pop in, watch their friends perform, […] and still be able to support them in the chat,” junior and StuySquad President-in-Training Alec Shafran said.
Most directors will be using Zoom for virtual rehearsals, but some are hoping to hold occasional in-person meetings due to the highly interactive and collaborative nature of StuySquad. “A lot of [directors] are planning on having occasional rehearsals in the park so that it’s a big open space where they can remain social distance and have their mask on while having that feeling of community that StuySquad is so well known for,” Shafran said.
Junior and StuySquad Flow Dawn Director Isabelle Lam is hoping to hold in-person meetings, since finding substitutions for specific light-up equipment needed for flow can be difficult, and teaching certain moves virtually is not as effective. “Since I’m leading whipping [the prop she specializes in teaching], it’s much harder to substitute for a whip so for [rehearsals], it’ll probably be in-person.”
In addition, StuySquad hopes that dance crews will be able to record their performances at dance studios as they start to open up in New York City, while also accommodating those who cannot meet in-person. “We’re planning on having the crews […] record [at the studio] for everyone who is comfortable enough or whose parents are comfortable letting them come into the studio, and recording everyone there, and having people who don’t feel the safest […] send in videos and have that be edited together,” Shafran said.
To piece together the webinar, StuySquad is considering establishing an editing team, opening up opportunity for more students to get involved. “A lot of people at Stuy who are super talented […] don’t get the chance to get involved in these kinds of extracurriculars. Having them be involved and the StuySquad community this year could be an awesome way to be a part of it,” Shafran said.
The virtual format of StuySquad, however, has proved to be an obstacle in recruiting members. “One of the biggest challenges was outreach because [though] this year’s a perfect chance to try out whatever new crews that someone might be interested in, at the same time, people don't really want to do it because it's over Zoom, and it's obviously not going to be the same,” Shafran said. “You don't get a chance to do that, so many people were turned off [by] the new format that StuySquad is taking, so we’re trying to [get] through that this year is really the best year to try out whatever you want.”
In addition, though many are excited to practice and perform, some are worried about cultivating a sense of community virtually. “One of my favorite parts of StuySquad is bonding with the people in my crew which might not work so well virtually. Also, the thrill of performing in front of a live audience will be missing as well,” sophomore Isabella Chow said in an e-mail interview.
Though the performance will be recorded this year, StuySquad hopes to preserve the spirit of the showcase by attempting to emulate the format and style of previous StuySquad showcases. “We’re still going to have the emcee, which is one of the staples of StuySquad,” Shafran said. “We’re still going to try to keep the show as it would be normally as possible, just over an online format and prerecorded so it can be the best show possible.”
Despite being unable to perform in front of a live audience, StuySquad is grateful for being able to continue to be active and stay connected with their club. “Despite what technological issues may come our way, the Board and I are so excited. I also know it's the last year for seniors like me to be in StuySquad, so I want this to be just as special for us,” senior and StuySquad President Roshni Patel said.
Stuyvesant Theater Community
The Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) is planning to hold all of their shows virtually and create new remote opportunities for STC members and the school community as a whole.
During a typical school year, there are three STC shows held in November, January, and May or June. This year, Slate, the executive board of STC, is planning a virtual show in December called the wautumn (winter/autumn) musical, as well as two more shows toward the end of the school year. STC will primarily use Zoom for rehearsals, with STC members asynchronously pre-recording the entire musical from their homes and the editing crew assembling them together. Afterward, the final recording will be live-streamed through ShowShare, which interested viewers will pay a fee to watch.
The wautumn musical will be presented differently from previous years, since it will not be performed in-person. “It’ll be […] less of a performance in the moment on a particular night and more of a whole production coming together over the course of a couple of weeks and then us sharing the final product,” senior and Executive Producer Clara Yuste Golob said.
In addition to offering opportunities to work with different platforms, the virtual setting of the wautumn musical has created new ways for crews to be involved. This year, Slate established the editing crew, which will put together footage and audio in a multi-step process. “The band will edit together all of the band audio […] and then, [we’ll] edit together the cast vocal recordings and chorus recordings into that. And we’ll mix the vocals together, and then we’ll send that off to the video editors, who will then match that up with a lip-synced recording of the vocals,” senior and STC editing and cast director Alexander Lake said. “It’s almost going to be like producing a movie, and I think that’s a really cool thing that we don’t usually get the opportunity to do.”
In addition, the art crew will also be adjusting to the remote setting. “The art is going to be taking on a more digital role […] making Zoom backgrounds and then also working on animations, which is a really fun, new thing that STC hasn’t gotten to work with yet,” Yuste Golob said.
Junior and STC Art Director Cadence Li added, “Usually, for art crew during a typical year, we would be painting really large swathes of paint for a fairly simple background compared to what this year is probably going to demand […] it probably will have to be more detailed because you’ll be seeing it up close on a screen instead of in the background while the cast is acting.”
With communication and work being conducted remotely, the art crew directors are anticipating challenges in collaborating with the members of their crew. “Since everyone is going to be working on things separately, it will be sort of difficult for the art to look consistent between everything,” Li said.
To overcome the lack of physical interaction, some directors are holding bonding sessions. “I think, in terms of teamwork, it might be less, just because […] normally we would have this one big thing that we would need to get done,” senior and STC Art Director Emily Chen said. “So, to compensate […] we have all these team bonding meetings [with] Zoom calls [and] skribbl.io.”
While the dance crew is adjusting to the new opportunities given through a pre-recorded musical, it is also facing its own set of challenges. “We’re definitely still going to be dancing as much as we usually would […] but because everything is done over camera or over video, we’re going to try to definitely experiment a lot more with camera angles and some positioning,” junior and dance director Christine Lin said. “[Sophomore and dance director Christina Shen] and I […] were trying to figure out application choreography […] it just made me realize how much more difficult it is to be communicating movements online […] for example, we’d both be trying to play the music, and it would glitch, [and] the video’s inverted.”
STC has also hosted a movie night and is planning to hold more virtual community-building initiatives where non-STC members can also become involved. For example, they are preparing a Battle of the Bands Tiny Desk Concert event. “[We hope to give] an opportunity for kids throughout Stuy [who] are interested in music […] to come together,” Yuste Golob said. “We’re hoping through STC, [freshmen and] students of all grades will be able to come together again and get to work on something that they really love [and] enjoy.”
With the experience and knowledge gained from hosting events and activities in the virtual setting, STC hopes to incorporate more remote events in the future. “Just by being curious and trying […] these different formats online out, we’ll really be able to build some kind of foundation for what Stuy and what Stuy activities look like remotely,” Yuste Golob said. “Though this is kind of new for everyone, it’ll be a really great opportunity, […] so at least we know that we have a plan and that Stuy doesn’t just disappear when we’re remote.”
Similar to the other performing clubs, Stuy Legacy is adjusting to the pandemic by prioritizing the safety of members as they continue to practice and refine their dancing virtually.
Currently, there are no upcoming competitions for the fall season, and it is uncertain whether events will take place during the spring. “Since we don’t have a competition to work for, we don’t have to create […] a performance set or anything,” senior and Stuy Legacy leader Min Sun Yu said. “This season, we are still having regular meetings three times a week, and we’re focusing more on just the skills that we need to practice […] as dancers, and just having […] a good, creative, fun time with each other.”
Meetings are primarily conducted through Zoom to avoid risking the safety of those participating, which remains a priority for Stuy Legacy. “Though we’re a high school team, we’re pretty involved in the dance community […] basically, what we do is kind of reflective of the community, and [in] the dance community, like every other social group, we’re all just trying to get through this situation together,” Yu said. “It would have been wrong to kind of promote our own dancing and do in-person things, and that would be so ignorant of the situation when everyone’s just trying to be safe.”
Interacting virtually has brought its share of challenges for the dance team. “Dance is […] almost 100 percent a social activity […] of course you can excel in that on your own and improve your skills, but it's a really different experience together. The fact that we're a team, but we’re having to be separate—it feels so different,” Yu said. “Dancing in a studio and being in that supportive environment where everyone is just cheering each other on, just having fun […] a lot of that is lost in a Zoom call […] we’re literally just looking at our faces, and the timing doesn’t even match, and we can’t even tell if we’re doing everything synchronized, so it’s just really, really frustrating.”
Additionally, Stuy Legacy has decided not to recruit new members for the fall season due to the difficulties of a virtual audition process. “We decided to keep it exclusive to only members from the last season just because we thought that doing auditions virtually for the fall season would be a little messy,” Yu said. “We [also] wanted to focus on […] the creative aspect.” New members, however, will likely be able to join in the spring season since the group is planning on holding auditions then.
Despite the transition Stuy Legacy has had to make this season, they are continuing to dance and improve as a team. “Overall, I’d say that [in] Stuy Legacy, we’re all just trying our best like everyone else is during this pandemic, but a lot has changed for sure,” Yu said.