The Hollywood High Theatre Department is producing a musical—“The Addams Family”—and they’re doing it virtually.
How does one organize a play from a rectangular screen? Seriously, think about that for a second.
What a director is tasked with, under COVID, is the auditioning of tons of actors, the planning of Zoom rehearsals, and the laborious back and forth of communication between all the parties involved. And finally, they might even have to play the unusual role of ‘editor’—splicing together every recorded scene into a coherent play that the prospective audience can access through a private link.
Yet John Tourtellotte and Lisa Hertzner, teachers at Hollywood High and professionals in their respective industries of theatre and music, managed to pull it off for the spring semester.
“It’s stressful. It’s the single most artistically challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Tourtellotte. “Not having the physical togetherness has been one of the biggest cons. We’re not getting a chance to put it on its feet. It’s contained in four walls and a little box.”
If you think acting in the confines of a tiny box is a challenge—try singing as a group. Through Zoom. With inconsistent internet. And laggy response times. “People can sing independently, but they don’t get to harmonize,” said Hertzner, describing the most challenging aspect of performing music digitally.
So how did Tourtellotte and Hertzner settle on “The Addams Family” as their choice of production? After all, if you’re performing a play through Zoom, it should be ideal for the limitations being imposed, right? Well, as Hertzner said, “You don’t need a lot of sets. It all happens in a house.” From a practical standpoint, it’s not necessary to design a whole lot of stage props.
The practical aspect of the production is only one part of it. The psychological implications of separating a cast and crew from being in the same room imposes difficulty on the ability to maximize the theatre experience. But despite these challenges, the cast is making the best of the situation.
“The fact that this group of students, in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, have given up so much of their time—said ‘I wanna do that.’ Nobody is slouching,” said a proud Tourtellotte.
It’s a testament to the dedication of the theatre department that students, from behind digital borders, came together to make a musical happen. “Trying to do a musical in a pandemic makes me realize how important music and the arts are. We could’ve taken the lazy way out, and said ‘It’s impossible. How are we gonna do it?’”, said Hertzner.
“The Addams Family” may carry some sentimental value to students, family, and faculty in this time of isolation. The plot of the play revolves around a creepy family with an affinity for the macabre. To Hertzner, the plot packs a familial punch, “As far as the storyline goes, what’s most important is love and family. The people that support us and would do anything for us.”
As for why he chose “The Addams Family”, Tourtellotte has something rather poignant to say, “There’s a line in the show; ‘Let’s not talk about anything else but love.’ With all of the challenges and all of the struggles the world is facing that need to be dealt with—we need to remember; there’s a lot of love in the world.”
Tickets to the play are available on https://hollywoodhs.booktix.com/. The play will be broadcast from April 9 – 11, at 7 P.M. on April 9 and 10, and at 2 P.M. on April 11.