Lila Sharp, Grade 10, Staff Writer
With COVID-19 cases and deaths across the country at an all-time high, New York City High Schools have gone completely virtual. While this is bad news for sports and performance-based clubs, which usually require members to meet and practice in person, some clubs have found ways to adapt to today’s conditions. One example of this is The High School of American Studies Drama Club.
“Well, obviously we meet over Zoom nowadays,” said Morgan Perlstein, a sophomore and the drama club’s co-head of acting. “We’ve really been focusing on creating and staging skits that can be pre-recorded or performed live over Zoom. We spent the first few meetings reading a lot of different scripts and seeing what was easily translatable to a virtual setting. Then, we picked a few that we liked and are planning on using them in future shows.”
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, having a creative outlet helps combat anxiety and depression. During these uncertain times, it is commendable that the club members are doing their best to preserve the spirit of the club in their meetings and productions.
However, according to the heads of the club, it has not always been a perfect fix. They have seen a drop in regular members since the spring, partly due to last year’s seniors making up a significant portion of the club. The deficiencies of virtual club fairs and limited word-of-mouth have made it a challenge to attract new members.
Additionally, although the pre-recorded aspect of current shows has taken some of the pressure off of the performers, acting virtually has its own set of difficulties. “A major problem we faced was keeping the dialogue snappy, as it’s hard for someone to immediately jump in after a line is said. There's a lot more of a delay,” explained Perlstein. “Though nowadays the great thing is that we can just do it over again until it’s perfect. And so far, we can still convey the emotions in the scene properly. It’s not that much different in that way.”
While acting in and of itself has not changed much, the role of tech in the club has shifted greatly. Before the pandemic, the students in charge of tech would spend weeks leading up to the show building a real set for the actors to perform in, but now they edit the videos that the actors pre-record. Using iMovie, the tech students take the footage and cut it down. Then, they add titles and credits to the beginning and end. To make the shows more realistic, tech students are also put in charge of creating virtual backgrounds behind the actors.
Despite this new role, some tech students feel like their importance in the club has decreased dramatically since quarantine started. “I feel like the role of tech has definitely diminished, just because there’s nothing to build right now,” said Agatha German, a sophomore and the drama club’s head of tech. “I wish we could be working on the stages at Lehman, actually building things. Working on sets is all about creativity, and it can be hard to find your creativity when you’re stuck inside. Last year we got to do woodworking and painting; it was really fun and gave us a chance to stretch out artistically.”
Despite these barriers, the club has demonstrated exceptional strength in its fight to stay active through quarantine. Their fortitude is apparent in their productions and the effort they put into maintaining the true spirit of the club.