Twenty-twenty has been an unconventional school year, to say the least. As a teacher, one of my first thoughts in relation to this pandemic was how it would affect my students. Many teachers wondered how their students would fare at home during the extended time away.
However, there is another concern that weighed heavy on my heart. Since November, my six classes of about 100 students have been preparing for the Oneonta High School spring musical. These students have rehearsed long hours singing, acting, and dancing. Some of them helped me select set pieces and costumes, created ads, raised money, learned how to work the light and sound boards, and so much more.
For my actors, it has been a journey. In August they were begging me to reveal what show I had chosen (though I had no idea yet), and by November they were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to audition for their favorite role in Cinderella. By March, we had rehearsed almost every scene, learned most of the music, and begun the choreography and staging.
Students knew that they were to be “off-book,” meaning everything should be completely memorized, when we returned from spring break. This would place us right on schedule to perform our production for at least six schools and hundreds of community members April 16 to 19.
Needless to say, it was heartbreaking for us to learn that we would not be having these performances. But, I still want to take a moment to highlight these students’ many accomplishments. I know many of them developed skills they will use throughout their lives, whether on or off stage. I want to say a personal ‘thank you’ to those students who went above and beyond.
Something I often say to them is, ‘Do your best.’ It has almost become a joke. I know they were so sick of hearing me say it! But, I wanted to instill in them that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Many people do not realize how much hard work goes into the theatrical process.
My students can tell you about the many times I pushed them — often to their frustration and sometimes to mine — to get the ‘little things’ right. Time and again, we worked through every detail of the show.
What I didn’t tell them was that they were really beginning to get the hang of it. What I didn’t tell them was that I saw a little improvement each day. What I didn’t tell them was how it meant the world to me when they would ask questions about something they noticed in the script. What I didn’t tell them was that I firmly believed we would have an incredible show.
Though I am disappointed at these circumstances, the time I’ve been given to reflect has made me feel proud and grateful. To my students reading this, thank you for giving me a wonderful first year at OHS! To my stage managers and crew members, thank you for working diligently behind the scenes. To my singers and main ensemble, thank you for not giving up on those difficult harmony parts! To my dancers, thank you for reviewing the steps until you got them just right. To my tech students (sound, lights, and more), you KNOW that I wouldn’t make it without you. To my actors, thank you for bringing the characters to life.
And most of all, to my seniors, I couldn’t be prouder of you. Each of you will be missed in my classroom and on the stage. It would be impossible to name everyone, but I do want to take a moment to recognize those seniors who held lead roles in Cinderella.
To Bethany Hogeland, our Queen: I truly appreciate the way you used the script to discover this character’s unique personality. I’ve seen this production several times, but I’ve never enjoyed watching the Queen so much! You added depth and comedy to her role in such an artistic way. Brava!
To Martha Chasteen, our Fairy Godmother: I am proud of you. You are learning to bring your own life experiences into the characters you create on the stage. This takes your beautiful voice and makes it not only gorgeous and entertaining, but also powerful and moving. I hope that you will continue this pursuit in your next season of life!
To Abigail Logan, our Grace (stepsister): Watching you perform was just hilarious! Your personality and comedic nature bring so much joy to my classroom and to the stage. I am really going to miss that. Thank you for giving your all to this character!
To Jaden Handley, our Stepmother: Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone. Thank you for taking my directions to heart, even when you had no idea how it was going to work out! You trusted me and relied on your acting instincts. Your interpretation of the Stepmother was captivating.
To Jessica Beason, our Cinderella: Thank you for gently leading others on our team to give their all. Thank you for consistently studying your part at home, showing up early, and maintaining a cheerful attitude. Your dynamic with each leading character was a thread that tied the whole show together. I have no doubt that you will go on to accomplish great things.
Finally, to Savannah Patterson, our stage manager: I don’t think anyone truly knows how much work you put into this production. Thank you for being my go-to person for everything from scheduling rehearsals to organizing costumes. I have confidence that your leadership backstage was going to make for a smooth production onstage, and that is truly how the ‘magic’ of theatre happens.
To my students, fellow teachers, administrators, community supporters, and everyone involved: Thank you. Even though we didn’t get to see this show on the stage, I want you to know how many positive things came out of it. I cannot wait to see how our musical next year will be even more wonderful!