Bears get creative in 'some new and exciting ways'

Musical theatre program streams Something Rotten!

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How do you compete with William Shakespeare in 1595?

You put on a musical, of course.

That’s the premise of Something Rotten!, the latest production of the Bears Musical Theatre program at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is being offered via streaming.

“It was definitely an uphill battle” planning, practising and presenting the play in the midst of the pandemic, concedes music teacher Brian Overholt.

“But we wanted to provide an opportunity for the students to do something normal. We had to work to find a way to make this work.”

The play was selected in the spring “not knowing what was going to happen in the fall,” and involved plenty of meetings with the cast and crew, the school board and the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit to make sure it could be presented in a safe way, Overholt explains.

“Although nothing beats a live performance, we are so proud of the work of our students, who have put together something really special,” he says.

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“In this time when everything seems to be turned upside down, we felt that we had a duty to provide our students with the opportunity to engage in a class they love so much.”

Something Rotten! is the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, who struggle to find success in the theatrical world. Competing with the wildly famous plays of none other than Shakespeare, the duo takes the advice of an unlikely source and decides to pursue the world of musicals, with a few hiccups along the way.

“I love the way this story unfolds,” says Grade 12 stage manager Paige Gartner. “Although it is set in 1595, it is a relatable, funny and unpredictable play. We had a lot of fun rehearsing and creating a set to perform for a camera, instead of a live audience this year. It was a different kind of challenge for us as a musical theatre class, but we got to be creative in some new and exciting ways.”

Overholt says the cast and crew of 46 students had 23 days to put the program together. It was filmed Dec. 14, following all safety protocols for COVID-19.

“Every day from 8:50 (a.m.) to 3:05 (p.m.) we were working on it,” due to the introduction of the “octomester” this year, which keeps students in the same groups and the same program.

Overholt says it was an unusual experience for many of the students who have been involved in school or community theatre.

“At first it was strange, because they would be waiting for the audience reaction” to what they were doing on stage, he says.

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But they quickly adapted to the reality they faced.

Overholt says the crew had to work on different sound, lighting and set needs for a streaming performance.

“Normally, with sound, it’s balanced for the audience in the house,” he explains. “We had to change the way we were thinking on the sound, lighting and sets, how they would work for the camera” instead of a live audience.

The school purchased the streaming rights for the play, which Overholt says broadens the troupe’s reach.

“It is a way for their families to see it and it’s a chance for people not in North Bay to see what we are doing. There is a definite lack of arts out there, and it’s nice to be able to do it with the safety of the students as the top priority.”

Streaming the performance also is something the troupe is definitely interested in for future performances, he says.

“We were working with RFP Media and it is the first time we have ever done this,” Overholt says. “We want to continue to work with them and with our other partners in the future.”

Tickets can be purchased at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/43405

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