By Lee Noles
INDIAN TRAIL – The show must go on is a well-known phrase in show business and the Porter Ridge High drama club stayed true to the line during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Several students from the group worked with teacher Todd Ford and did a live performance on the social platform, Zoom, on June 5. The play, written by Ford, took a humorous approach to the stay-at-home orders that also canceled the club’s spring performance.
“I wanted to give them the opportunity to perform without the responsibility of feeling like they had to do it,” Ford said. “I wanted them to do something they could enjoy outside of the classroom during these wild and crazy times.”
Ford began to develop the play after talking with other drama teachers in Union County on Zoom. Noticing their interaction, he wrote the virtual play called “Quaranscream.” The production begins at a business meeting on the social platform where characters are complaining about a lack of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The plot changes when the only member in the meeting who has an abundance of either disappears, leaving the rest to suspect one of their own behind the crime. In the end, the missing character was hunkered in his bomb shelter.
“I took that nugget of reality and blew it up 100 times that someone was thinking someone is not at the meeting and they must have been murdered,” Ford said. “And I felt in a time that is so serious, and there are a lot of concerns, and so much going on, we needed something to make us laugh and take our minds off of it for 30 or 40 minutes.”
Issy Cardona was one of the first students to read Ford’s play and jumped at the chance to get involved. Cardona graduated from Porter Ridge this week and has been a member of the drama club since moving from Massachusetts two years ago. She had a lead role and choreographed the musical numbers for the school’s production in May of “James and the Giant Peach,” but the stay-at-home orders canceled the performance.
“I really wanted to have that last shebang because our musical was canceled,” Cardona said. “And I was so excited when I found out we were able to do a play on Zoom.”
Joining Cardona as actors were fellow seniors Valeria Sierra Rey and Jared Weinstein as well as sophomores Molly Ansel and Jocelyn Shutak. Freshmen Keira Coleman and Colin Eleazer were also in the production.
Ford and Cardona said performing on Zoom was a great way to see classmates again after weeks apart, but the group had to adapt to obstacles along the way. One hurdle was the different internet connections delaying the dialogue. The group fixed the problem by one actor starting their line while others were still talking. Another issue was the interaction and blocking between actors. For a performance in front of a live audience, the actors’ spacing is essential, but on the social platform looking at the camera is more important.
“Students learned a different skill set on Zoom … in terms of a camera technique, like making eye contact with a camera when talking with someone or staying in character all the time,” Ford said. “Because the camera is constantly on them.”
Cardona used technology to develop her own talents by getting other performers from “James and the Giant Peach” to record their songs and dances and send their videos to her at home. She edited the footage over a month and half and posted the final product on Porter Ridge’s Instagram page.
“I really wanted to showcase the hard work everyone put in,” Cardona said. “And (Ford) was like ‘Go for it. That is a great idea.’”
Although COVID-19 took away the opportunity for the drama club to perform their school play, Ford is looking at Zoom as a possible teaching tool for the future.
“I think it is a different median, and the students learned a lot from it,” Ford said. “The reality is it is something we may have to do. If we don’t have to do it again, it is something I would like to try as a smaller project.”
Want to watch?
The play can be seen by going to the school’s website www.ucps.k12.nc.us/prhs.