Drama Is My Life

The importance of theatre in high school

Isabelle Assaf 21 and Brian Tolan 21 in the dress rehearsal for Abington High Schools musical Mamma Mia which was cancelled on opening night March 12, 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

Bill Marquardt, with permission

Isabelle Assaf ’21 and Brian Tolan ’21 in the dress rehearsal for Abington High School’s musical “Mamma Mia” which was cancelled on opening night March 12, 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

Isabelle Assaf, Contributor

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone and their ways of life. Slowly, life has started to go back to normal. Stores and restaurants are opening back up, sports teams are playing again, students are back in school, and movies/TV shows are starting to film again.

But there is one industry that hasn’t been able to open again: live theatre. Broadway has been closed since March 12 and they are not expected to reopen until late May/early June 2021.

This loss is devastating. It has caused thousands of actors, crew members, makeup artists, costumers, theater managers, and countless others to lose their jobs.

Covid is not only affecting actors on Broadway. Although many schools were back in session starting in August, or for Abington on Sept. 16 with precautions to keep its students and teachers safe, theatre isn’t allowed to start. Schools all over the country, including our neighbors in the Randolph Public School District, have partially or completely cut arts and music from their budgets for this school year, which is absolutely appalling.

Pullquote Photo

Sports teaches adolescents teamwork and provides them with a family, the exact same as what theatre does.

— Isabelle Assaf

Some clubs and sports have started back up. Schools have found precautions for students to be in school, sports, and clubs, by enforcing social distancing, masks, constant hand washing, and restricted the use of lockers (both normal and gym). But a lot of schools are deciding not to allow theatre all together. The excessive talking and singing will cause too much airflow and could further spread Covid.

Thousands of students across the country, including myself, got their plays and musicals cancelled in the spring due to the start of the pandemic. I was supposed to open “Mamma Mia” on March 12 and have a three-show run that weekend, but we were cancelled less than five hours before the show was to start.

When the director Mr. Shannon called a meeting at the time the show was supposed to open, we all gathered, heartbroken, in the auditorium. He discussed our situation, stating that we were sadly cancelled for that weekend, but hoped we could reschedule for a later date. As the pandemic worsened, we never got to have our show.

I will never forget all the tears that were shed that day, I hugged nearly everyone in the cast, tears streaming down our faces as we held each other close. The parent volunteers brought in cookies, sodas, chips, and even raided the concessions closet and let us all dig in. Now these same students are likely not to have a show at all this school year.

Theatre is my entire life; I’ve been performing since I was 9 years old and have been in over 40 shows throughout my life. Theatre is where I have met all my closest friends over the years. They are people I’ve been friends with since I started, and those whom I’ve met just recently, that I have incredibly strong bonds with. I have made my favorite memories because of theatre. Sports teaches adolescents teamwork and provides them with a family, the exact same as what theatre does.

The arts are important, and there are ways of making performing safely possible. For example, renting a stage meant for outdoors and having audience members stay in the cars, similar to a drive-in movie. For the actors safety, having them invest in clear masks, which can be found online and are very affordable, so you can still see their facial expressions while keeping everyone protected. I’ve heard of a few theatre companies using this strategy and it worked well.

Another suggestion is having the show in the auditorium, but not allowing an audience. Instead the show could be recorded and given to the actors in DVDs or live streamed. To watch it you’d have to pay a small ticket fee to get access.

None of these suggestions are ideal, but I know many kids, including myself, would do anything to get to perform this year, so making some changes would be worth it.