Burlingame Performing Arts Department to put on one-act virtual performances

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Photo courtesy of BHS Panther Theatre

The cast of “Help Desk” show off their scripts on their first day of Zoom rehearsal.

Lexi Goldstein, Copy Editor

Plans for a fall musical have been derailed by COVID-19 and forced Burlingame’s Performing Arts Department to get creative with their performances in virtual format. The drama department will be putting on two one-act plays, “Help Desk” and “Bad Auditions… On Camera,” via Zoom on Nov. 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. The performances will be live and free, with a link to access on the BHS Panther Theatre website. 

Following the cancelation of the spring play “Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” there was uncertainty about a fall production and what  one would look like in a virtual arrangement. When drama teacher Cindy Skelton came across two comedic plays written for virtual performances, she decided to give a fall production a shot. 

“I wanted to do some comedies, I don’t think we need any more drama in our lives right now. I think humor is a wonderful medicine,” Skeleton said. “I also chose them because they’re short, I think we spend a lot of time on Zoom.”

The cast of “Bad Auditions… On Camera”.

There are two separate productions spanning between 30 and 40 minutes each. “Help Desk” follows the conversations between people and the help center employees who answer their ridiculous and diverse questions, and “Bad Auditions… On Camera” is a peek into the casting room where a casting director has a difficult time casting the role of a lawyer on a time crunch with an incompatible selection of performers. 

Many of the student actors are playing numerous roles which were gender interchangeable. Skelton felt relieved of the duty of finding a musical with numerically substantial female roles. 

“Traditionally, I have so many girls and not a lot of guys. It’s hard to find a musical with just a lot of girls,” Skelton said.

Rehearsals began on Oct. 6, and mainly consist of 15 minute intervals of scene rehearsals for efficiency. A more intimate environment has resulted from only a few actors meeting at a time, giving other actors the freedom to do other work until their scene is practiced. 

The shows will look different from the elaborate stage and props many are accustomed to seeing in an in-person theatre. There are only two crew members: a stage manager and assistant stage manager, as opposed to the large crews of previous years. Cast members will be tasked with making a set out of rooms in their homes and will be responsible for their own costumes. The drama boosters will provide Wi-Fi hotspots for the thespians in need of better connection and all will have access to a laptop as the school provided Google Chromebooks at the beginning of the school year for all Burlingame students. 

The alternative, virtual rehearsal format has already shown contrasts from the previous in-person standard. The sense of community which results from collaborating on productions has been affected by the awkward nature of online interactions. More senior members of the cast benefit from the foundation of camaraderie derivative of time spent together on past productions. 

“It’s a little more difficult for the newer members, like freshmen and sophomores, who have not yet been in a school production or don’t know what it’s like,” Drama Club president Vanessa Teo said. “We’re trying our best to get everyone well welcomed and integrated.”

The cast remains optimistic and excited about the productions and is hard at work perfecting their performances.