We Aren't Kids Anymore - April 09

Colonial Players

 Notes from the Director 

Just over a year ago, the students and staff of the Colonial Players, along with the rest of the area, country and world, learned that life was coming to an abrupt halt. Besides all of the life changes that had to be made in March of 2020, theaters across the country had to come to grips with the temporary end of live theater. For the Colonial Players, this meant the cancellation of our musical, Amelie, a show that was one week away from opening after four months and hundreds of hours of rehearsals and preparation. It was a tough blow for all of us and we all began to wonder what the future held for us. That said, we were sure that a year later, we would be back on the PWHS stage performing our next production.


This year, we find ourselves still amidst a pandemic with mask and social distancing requirements. The roadblocks to a musical theater production seem insurmountable: some students are in school while others are virtual, masking and social distance requirements still in effect, capacity rules governing indoor and outdoor gatherings, guidance is constantly changing, Broadway is still closed, and the virus is still spreading. All these factors weigh against the ability for the Colonial Players to put on a production.  


Luckily, we are blessed with an incredibly creative staff and dedicated students. After much discussion, we decided to move forward with a musical production. We chose a song cycle instead of a standard book show, eliminating the need for dialog. We planned zoom meetings, obtained singing masks (thanks Mr. Cooper), organized arrangements with outdoor venues for filming (thanks Coyote Crossing and Abington Arts Center), purchased recording equipment (thanks Dave Smith), built an isolation booth for audio recording (thanks Joe Lally, Nate Barone and facilities), and came up with a plan. We would have the instrumental tracks recorded (thanks Jay Rosen and Nick Costa), teach the music to the students (thanks Maria O’Connor), record each student’s audio individually in the booth, pick the best of the tracks (thanks Eric Scheidly and Maria O’Connor), put them together in a final audio mix (thanks again Jay Rosen), meet with the cast to discuss character development (thanks Jeramie Iannelli and Melissa Downer), develop storyboards for filming (thanks Val Collado and Shayna Saltzburg), teach them dances (thanks Megan Barone), film each scene (thanks Kim Newell, cast members and cast families that assisted), edit that footage together (thanks Kyle Flood and Tom Peeler for technical support), and stream a show for the world to buy tickets to (thanks Val Collado and Jen Crea).  


The result is pretty amazing. It took countless hours and an insane amount of data (over 2,000 video files comprising 248GB and over 1,100 audio files accounting for 64GB). Students and staff had to learn new skills such as camera operation, greenscreen recording, animation, video editing, sound recording, sound editing, and online communication, just to name a few. Everyone involved completely dedicated themselves to their role in the production and I could not be more proud.


I am blessed each year to direct the musical. I get to work with an incredible team of professionals who are willing to do whatever it takes to mount the best production we can, students who are the kindest, most dedicated and most talented people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, a school and district administration that values the arts and helps us succeed through continued support and encouragement, and school support staff that are always willing to lend a helping hand when needed. It is my pleasure to be able to provide this opportunity and theater family to generations of students.


I would be remiss without recognizing my loving wife, Carrie, and three supportive boys, Luke, Lance, and Bryce, who deal with countless hours of my absence (both physical and mental). They are the rocks that allow me to continue this wonderful journey in musical theater and education. I appreciate and love you more than you may ever know - thanks for always believing in me.


Finally, thanks to all of you reading this for supporting the arts and the Colonial Players. We look forward to better times in the future when we can welcome you back to live theater. Until then, be well and stay safe.


M. Engel

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