A look behind the scenes of Schreiber Theater Company’s virtual production, Clue

A+look+behind+the+scenes+of+Schreiber+Theater+Company%E2%80%99s+virtual+production%2C+Clue

Hannah Brooks, Staff Writer

Schreiber Theatre Company recently performed its first-ever virtual production with the premiere of Clue.  The play was ultimately a great success, but pioneering a new theatrical landscape came with obstacles.

Plays produced by Schreiber Theatre Company are typically performed live in the school auditorium.  In a non-pandemic year, in-person rehearsals would allow the cast to interact with each other, try on costumes, get used to set pieces, and practice their blocking.  At the close of the months-long rehearsal process comes “Tech Week,” the rehearsals when stage crew members, who control microphones, sound effects, spotlights, curtains, and other backstage elements, enter the mix.  All these days of hard work and dedication culminate in four live performances: two evening and two matinee.

Obviously, the process of putting on any live play is complicated this year.  Due to COVID-19 precautions and guidelines, the Scheiber Theatre Company was forced to move its performances to an online format, changing the nature of the rehearsal process and the show alike.  Rehearsals for Clue were held over Zoom during October and November, so cast members received direction and practiced their blocking from their own homes.  Each performer picked up costumes and props from the school, along with a green screen, a ring light, and a pair of bluetooth headphones.

The process of filming was a learning curve for many.  The cast filmed with two devices open: a computer, used to Zoom, and a cell phone, used to record video.  With bluetooth headsets connected to the Zoom, a performer would have to listen for cues through the Zoom and then record onto a phone (connected to a ring light) while in front of a green screen.  

“Performing to a camera isn’t the same as performing for an audience, and adapting to virtual acting was really trial and error,” said junior Emily Djohan, who played the Cook, the Motorist, and the Singing Telegram Girl.  

Then, the individual videos were shared with Mr. Aaron Prindle, the Technical Director, and his editing team, who spliced them together and worked video magic, creating the final product.

Rehearsing and filming Clue was no easy feat, as new difficulties were added into the already-complex task of putting on a show.  Wrenches thrown in the process included technological issues such as WiFi disconnections and lagging, lack of phone storage, and video quality problems, as well as home complications like family members or dogs making noise in the background.  Needless to say, the “performance” took longer than usual, with nearly three weeks (at least 15 or more total hours) put into filming the production and editing it.  

“The process was definitely different, but everything is this year,” said sophomore Jake Gendron, one of the two sound and editing assistants working on the show.  “It was a lot more finding and editing backgrounds than anything else.”  

Luckily, aside from a few minor discontinuities, the final product was well-received and “applauded” by its virtual audience.  Clue was streamed via an online platform called Broadway On Demand, with tickets at $15 a household.  Once a family purchased a virtual ticket, they could watch the performance at any time during the weekend.  As was the case in much of the rehearsal process, some technical difficulties with the streaming platform ensued Friday night, but by Saturday morning, the production team was able to get the show up and running smoothly. 

The cast and crew still enjoyed the process, while not ideal, and are proud of their creation.  

“The show was a lot of work, and required an enormous amount of effort and mental strain. Given the fact that I haven’t participated in theatre since March, it was nice to be part of a show, and the frustrations of the virtual experience brought the cast together,” said junior Alexandra Parker, one of Clue’s narrators.  

The experiences gained from Clue will no doubt influence how upcoming productions, including a virtual spring musical, are run.  Hopefully, in-person theatre can safely return soon, but until then, an increasing familiarity with the digital stage is sure to keep the performing arts alive at Schreiber.