Issue 3: The Curtain Rises Again for Troupe 2660

Despite cancelled shows and messy livestreams, the show goes on for Robinson’s theatre program


Photo Zoe Thaxton

From left to right: Lucy Frank (‘22), Elias Fermin (‘21), Charles Davidson (‘21), Peyton Heckman (‘23) and Jaden Fernandez (‘23) practice blocking and lines for a scene of Legally Blonde. Despite recording Legally Blonde in a movie format, Troupe 2660 still holds rehearsals as if they were performing live.

Zoe Thaxton and Anna Woodward

On Jan. 13, Robinson’s theatre Troupe 2660 was almost completely prepared for their first show since COVID-19 started. Broadway Knights, a variety show, was set to perform the following night. They had followed all safety protocols possible to keep the actors and audience members safe, from wearing masks during the performance to specific blocking and social distancing the audience. The preparations were cut short when Troupe 2660 was abruptly told that their show was moved online.

“It was heartbreaking,” IB vice president of the troupe Elena Peden (‘22) said. “We had been waiting so long to do a show [since] our show last year got cancelled. We normally would’ve done two shows by the time we had done Broadway Knights, and we were so excited to finally do a show, to finally interact with an audience and put all our hard work out on display for other people to see.”

At the last minute, everything needed to change. The show needed to be live-streamed. They needed to inform those who had bought tickets that the show was on Zoom. Because of the untimely circumstances, the Troupe didn’t have the proper audio and visual equipment.

“You could barely see anyone’s faces. You could barely hear them. It just did not work,” Peden said.

Theatre programs and athletics are under different leadership, with the former’s guidelines coming from the district and the latter’s coming from the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). Because of this difference, the district cannot regulate performing arts and athletics in the same manner.

In Broadway Knights’ case, it was an order from the district that caused the shift, above Robinson administration’s control. Although the Troupe was prepared to follow all guidelines, the show was moved online due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases on campus.

“The worst part is the theatre kids are not allowed to have a show with their parents in the audience, yet in the gym that same weekend there’s a basketball game, there’s parents in the stands, they’re wrestling…these athletics, they don’t even have to wear masks,” Theatre director Maureen Pelamati said. “Our kids, we have to wear masks, we’re not allowed to share microphones, we have to jump through all these incredible hoops that the sports teams don’t have to jump through.”

Just last month, HCPS released new guidelines: indoor performances are now permitted, with another strict set of guidelines. Performances are limited to 25% capacity, with patrons seated apart unless from the same family unit. Masks are required, and food and drink is prohibited to ensure that masks stay on. Intermissions are prohibited to limit audience movement throughout the venue.

Depending on the size of the venue and performance type, capacity can range from 119 for a three hour musical to 277 for a one hour performance, assuming the CDC-recommended six feet distance can remain.

Behind the scenes, students are still prohibited from sharing equipment, screened for temperature and symptoms before entering the theater and required to wear a face covering among other precautions. Despite the altered guidelines, performers are still unsure whether to jump back in without hesitation.

“[Referring to the new guidelines] Do I believe them [HCPS]? Do I think that maybe sure, they’re gonna say that and then a week before the show they’re gonna say ‘no you have to go outdoors or virtual’ because I don’t trust them,” Pelamati said. “I’ve lost all confidence in the district’s ability to lead us, quite honestly, for this and so many other reasons.”

Instead of a livestream, Troupe 2260 will perform their spring musical, Legally Blonde, as a recorded movie, which will later premiere in the auditorium. While these methods bring a creative solution to Troupe 2660’s frustrations, they ultimately lack the excitement that motivated many to become involved: to perform, live and without retakes.

“It’s a good experience for everybody in the fact that we’re learning a lot, and performing for the camera is a lot different than performing onstage. We don’t have to have the big crew and all the set changes…it’s different and from an educational standpoint, it is educational,” Pelamati said. “We’re learning how to do things in a new and different way, because we have had to do nothing but adapt and adjust all year long just to do what we love, which is perform theatre.”

Legally Blonde will be the Troupe’s last official performance for the semester. After the curtains fall, they won’t perform until the following school year. There is potential for a senior showcase, but that will be up to the students. As for now, Troupe 2660 will continue to adapt, and persevere to perform.