To kick off the summer, Sanfordville Elementary School Drama Club is getting a little chilly.
With the help of the Sanfordville PTA, the drama club is pivoting virtual — a concept we have become all too familiar with this past year. The young actresses and actors will stream their presentation of Disney’s Frozen KIDS on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 4 through 6. p.m.
“The pandemic meant that nobody knew if the drama club was happening. As soon as we got the go-ahead, we hit the ground running,” said Director Ruth Trovato, a Warwick Valley High School foreign language teacher. “We were operating on a shorter schedule — we usually begin practicing in October. This year, we started our auditions in late February.”
Francine DeGuzman, co-chair of the PTA and chairperson of the drama club, called this year “a learning experience.” The PTA helps promote the show, sell tickets, create T-Shirts, and overall support the behind-the-scenes work so the kids (and directors!) can focus on getting the job done.
This year, the SES drama club will be performing a “Kids” play, as opposed to a “Junior” play, due to the time constraint and late start. The Kids plays are “a little lighter on time, sets, costume, etc.,” explained Trovato. Previous drama club performances directed by Trovato include Annie Junior and The Little Mermaid Junior.
Frozen tells the story of a princess who sets off on a journey alongside an iceman, his reindeer and a snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped their kingdom in eternal winter.
Frozen KIDS is an elementary-school targeted adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical, based on the 2013 Disney. Favorite Frozen songs such as “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Go” are also featured.
How it came together
Nearly all of the drama club happened virtually. Open only to 3rd and 4th graders, the 41 students participating this year met twice weekly on Google Meet.
“I found that most of the kids were really excited for the club and the play, even though it was virtual,” Trovato said. “They appreciated doing something other than school and needed a creative outlet.”
After auditioning for their roles, students got to work. In front of computer screens, they danced and sang, preparing for the show.
The strictly virtual rehearsals made 1-on-1 assistance difficult. Students had to do a lot of the preparation and work on their own. Nobody was sure how filming would happen. The club dodged that bullet of having the students self-record and brought them into school individually to perform their roles.
Green screens, iPhones
Parents Jessica and Pablo Pulido created a full studio, complete with a green screen, studio lights and, of course, an iPhone. “The new iPhone has such a great camera that it can be used with a green screen. Once I realized that, that’s how we got the green screen idea in motion,” Pablo said.
Jessica added: “The post-production process is really lengthy - placing all of the individual students in the right scale and position - but the kids did a great job, and often recorded their parts in one take.”
This performance recording was the first time the students had met their teachers and cast mates in person.
‘They didn’t have the other side of the conversation’
“When the students went in to record, they didn’t have another student acting with them. They didn’t have the other side of the conversation, which I imagine is difficult,” said Sasha Loberg, mom of Olivia Loberg. “I’m just happy that the drama club figured out a way to run this year.”
Olivia Loberg plays the eldest of three Annas in the play; there are three different actresses to depict the three different ages of Anna: Young Anna, Middle Anna and Anna.
“I was very surprised to get one of the big roles because I had never really done a play before,” Olivia said. “I was both excited and nervous, but the teachers were so understanding and patient.”
“This year was definitely harder and tougher because we had to have all of our lines ready and figure it all out ourselves,” Lila DeGuzman, the daughter of Francine. “But I was so happy to be ‘Sven’ and felt really supported by my friends.”
Taped, then spliced together
Trovato described the challenge of a virtual program as “daunting,” but with the help of parents and Assistant Director Hayley Mistler, they have been able to make some magic these past few months.
“When the students came in to record their parts, there was so much general excitement,” Trovato said. “What we are doing is so cool, so unique. It’s a great opportunity to get creative.”
All of the students’ parts were taped and later spliced together, using Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, to create a 30-40-minute performance.
Members of the Warwick Valley High School Drama Club came to help out the days of recording as well. The older students “buddied up” with those younger, which was “really special,” Trovato said.
The pairs would walk from classroom to classroom, and the older students gave advice and support to the Frozen KIDS cast. All social distancing guidelines were followed.
“I really want to give those student volunteers a huge thank you,” Francine DeGuzman said. “They were so great with the kids, always making them laugh.”
Cast party at the Drive-in
To celebrate the great success of Frozen KIDS, Francine DeGuzman and her team of parents have planned a cast party for the students at the Warwick Drive-in. “Socializing and being with friends is a really big part of drama club,,” she said, “and it’ll be amazing for the cast to see themselves on the big-screen.”
“My favorite part of this whole experience has been working with the kids: watching them grow and come out of their shells,” said Trovato. “These past few months were a challenge and took a village. But what’s really exciting is that when the play is streamed, it will be the first time the students see it all put together. It’ll be a wonderful experience for them.”
“I just hope the kids have learned about storytelling,” added Pablo Pulido, “and how little parts and roles can add up to a big story.”