By Isabel Sinnott

International Thespian Society (ITS) working on their 24 Hour Play this past fall

Hammond has several different performing arts programs that provide students with creative outlets and opportunities to perform, but with the switch to digital learning, these programs have had to work to come up with digital alternatives to live performances and provide students with different ways to stay involved.

The theatre department generally provides two main opportunities for students to perform; the fall play and the spring musical. Last year, the play was “These Shining Lives,” and the musical “The Addams Family,” but school shut down due to Covid after only one performance, and orchestra and dance never got to have their spring performances. Now this year, without any sort of in person opportunities, the performing arts departments have worked to create online and virtual options.

Throughout the fall, the theatre department worked to put out several performances. One of them was the 24 Hour Play, with scripts written, directed, performed, and edited by the International Thespian Society. These performances were rehearsed and performed in the span of just a few hours, and then edited over the course of a week and released. There is another 24 hour play coming up at Hammond this spring that anyone in the school can participate in and help out with. Scripts were due already, but anyone at Hammond can fill out the survey on the Theatre website and participate as an actor or editor. There are also Dramastics performances coming up this spring, though dates haven’t been set yet. The other thing that the theatre department is doing is putting on a virtual one act play: “Miss Gender,” an original script written by Hammond alumni Keche Arrington. “Miss Gender” will be rehearsed and filmed online and on Zoom, and then released to the Hammond community in May. 

Sophomore Julia Steinberg, a member of ITS who has previously participated both in live performances and in the 24 Hour Play in the fall, discussed how theatre has been different during digital learning. “We’ve had to create new performance opportunities, like our new upcoming spring [play], and change some of our traditions, like the 24 hour play. It’s also been more difficult to form new relationships with people and integrate new people into the department,” Steinberg said, regarding how Mrs. Tobiason and ITS have worked to create performance opportunities for students and keep the collaborative environment even virtually. She also stated that, “As a department, many people have been able to participate more due to less schedule conflicts and more flexibility especially with recorded performances,” referring to how even though digital learning has made performances more difficult in some ways, it has also opened up new opportunities.

The dance department at Hammond has also adapted to the same sort of online performance by having students record themselves dancing and then edit it together and set it to the music to create a video of all the students dancing together, even when they aren’t able to be physically present together. There are four filmed dances available on the Hammond Dance website, “Fall Apart” by the Hammond Junior Dance Company, “Last Dance” by the Hammond Dance Company, “Hold Me” by Dance I/II and “Going Through It” by Dance 1.

The orchestra program also had to adapt to having a completely online class. Where during in person school, class would be spent working as a group to piece together the songs, it’s difficult to have multiple people playing at the same time on Google Meet. To make this sort of group music class work online, students used the website Soundtrap to submit recordings of their playing, or played individually on the Google Meet. To put together their winter concert, they used Flipgrid to record themselves, and then Mrs. Reinhardt pieced together the videos for the concert. The winter concert consisted of four songs; “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “La Vie en Rose” featuring the Hammond bassists, and “Happy,” and is available on Youtube to watch. Regarding another performance later in the year, senior Camryn Johnson said: “We are hopefully having a spring concert to celebrate the seniors.”

As there currently is a plan for hybrid learning in place to start late this spring, it’s possible that there could be some small performances that could be filmed live instead of edited together, but having the option to continue with virtual and edited performances will allow more flexibility in schedules and rehearsals and possibly allow even more students to participate in the performing arts at Hammond.