The WHS Theater Company takes on the spring musical: Songs for a New World

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Juniors Elizabeth Crawford and Natalie Ladocsi work on play prop.

Emilia Tutun, Sports Editor

As we enter March of 2021, the Theater Company is in the midst of their preparation for their spring musical: Songs for a New World. WHS Drama Director and English Teacher Anne Slotnick elaborated on the upcoming production.

Songs for a New World is a type of musical called a ‘song cycle.’ This means that there is no clear plot or consistent characters, but rather themes that the songs are focused around,” Slotnick said. “[It] is an abstract musical featuring 17 songs connected by the major overarching theme of ‘the moment of decision making.’ The songs also explore additional themes of love, loss, change, identity, and hope for a brighter future.”

Although the production was originally written for four actors, Slotnick expanded the casting to include 27 actors to accommodate a large group of cast members, and explained the other reasons as to why she picked Songs for a New World. 

“Given the pandemic, we had to pick a piece that allows us to adapt and change easily. So, I picked this production [because of] how flexible it allows us to be in terms of staging and performance. This is a show that can be performed with a very minimal set, in any space, and will work well as a streamed performance,” Slotnick said. “It allows us to have actors spaced 10 feet apart without difficulty and works really well with four actors, or 40, so that was also a consideration for us.” 

Junior and cast member Elizabeth Crawford similarly noted the production’s flexibility: 

“The musical this year is working well because with our show being a collection of songs, we don’t need to spend as much time on choreography or blocking and can instead spend the time strengthening our music.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the production has faced many temporary changes. 

“We have shifted our entire program to being online this past week, when we finally returned to in-person rehearsals. We are [currently] rehearsing and performing in masks, have to be 10 feet apart in order to sing, and six feet apart for acting,” Slotnick said.

Although the WHS plays and musical productions have faced extreme changes because of COVID-19, Slotnick describes the benefits that the pandemic has brought to her theatrical outlook. 

“In some ways, it’s been a blessing in disguise, in that I’ve had to think really creatively and truly consider what is most important to me as a theater educator. I’ve paired down my typical production concerns and stresses to only the thing that matters most, which is the well-being of the students,” Slotnick asserted.

In addition to establishing a new perspective on her teaching methods, Slotnick also expressed her goals for the production and its cast members.

“My goal is for students to be challenged by the music and grow as singers. I also want them to have a chance to strengthen our theater community and reconnect with those they have not seen (at least in person) in a very long time, [and for] them to have fun and an outlet to express themselves creatively,” Slotnick said.  

Despite the changing COVID-19 regulations, cast members are still making the most of their situation.

“This show is going to be a wild ride with a lot of unknowns due to changing Covid-19 regulations, and vaccine rollout. But we are making the best of what we have and focusing on learning music for now. It’s all very exciting,” sophomore and cast member Sofia Desio said. 

Like Desio, junior and cast member Natalie Ladocsi shared a similar view and excitement for the production. 

“I have loved participating in the musical especially this year because it gives students the opportunity to sing and act in a COVID safe environment. Even though we have to stay 10 feet apart while we sing it is always fun to learn and master new music,” Ladosci said. 

The production is anticipated to be live streamed between May 21-23 according to Slotnick, and potentially displayed in a drive-in theater sort of event. 

As the overall production has undergone several changes due to COVID-19, Slotnick emphasized her enthusiasm for the cast members to finally put on their show. 

“I just want to note how wonderful the students have been this year. It’s been so different and they have adapted so well. They have kept their spirits up and supported each other all year,” Slotnick said. “I hope the school and town communities come out and support us and stream the final performance – we have really missed our community connection this year and it would be fantastic to feel that support again!”