For the first time in more than a year, NSCD students performed live on the auditorium stage March 11-13 for the spring musical production, “Hindsight 2020: Looking Back to Our Past Selves and Looking Forward to Who We Strive to Be.”
The show featured solo, duet, trio and ensemble performances of a variety of songs from popular musicals including “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story” and “High School Musical.” In between musical numbers, students shared their reflections on this tumultuous year.
“It started as an idea and grew into a lovely story that captured the heartache, isolation, good times and weirdness of 2020 with hope for the future ‘normal,’” explained Julia Macholl, NSCD performing arts department head and upper and middle school theater teacher.
Due to restrictions on gatherings, a live audience was not allowed. Instead, the school streamed all three performances so friends and family could watch from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
“This was definitely not the average spring musical,” Julia said. “There was so much uncertainty, so we had to be prepared with at least three or four backup plans. When the upper school switched to remote learning temporarily in mid-February, students still rehearsed independently so they were ready to hit the ground running when we returned in person.”
Although the process felt more improvised than a typical musical, it was also meticulously choreographed and blocked to maintain a 6-foot distance in accordance with state guidelines. Students were also required to wear masks at all times—even while singing.
“One of the biggest challenges for me was helping students find ways to sing expressively and effectively while wearing a face mask,” explained Upper and Middle School Choral Director and Music Teacher Timothy Mah. “The closest equivalent I can think of is tying a tennis player's wrists together with a large rubber band and then telling them to go and play an effective tennis match—it’s not easy to do! That said, our students rose to the occasion, using variations in volume, tone and color in their voices, along with expressiveness in their eyes, to bring to life some really beautiful and poignant songs from the musical theater repertoire.”
This was actually the third production of the school year. In the fall, the school held its first-ever outdoor performing arts festival with three sold-out performances. And instead of a traditional winter play, students worked together to write and perform two short films—“A Central Park Adventure” and “A Big Day Out for Snail!” The entire production was pre-recorded before the school transitioned to remote learning between Thanksgiving and winter break and shown online during a virtual all-school gathering in December.
“This has been such a bizarre year,” Julia said. “But I feel very fulfilled. Luckily, I have a fantastic production team with Technical Director Manny Ortiz, Music Director Timothy Mah and Choreographer Cameron Turner. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to put on these productions with the help of the entire school and administration.”
North Shore Country Day’s annual 10-minute play festival “Take 10” returned to the stage on April 13. For the first time in three years, students performed their original plays in front of a live audience with performances in the NSCD Auditorium.
All seven plays were written, produced and directed by students in the upper school directing class. Some were based on personal experience, observations and media events, while others stemmed from pure creativity. Once the scripts were finalized, the student directors held auditions, cast the roles and ran their own rehearsals.