One week before the curtain rose for MaST Community Charter School’s production of Wizard of Oz, lines were rehearsed, costumes were flown in and sets were complete. The show they had been practicing for since October was ready for its debut.
But come its March 19 premiere date, the seats and stage at the school’s auditorium were empty. That Monday was the first day the city and state declared a shutdown to stop the spreading of coronavirus, putting a halt to end-of-the-school-year hallmarks like musicals.
“I was devastated not just for me but for everyone else in the show,” said senior Kevin Blocker, who was set to play the Scarecrow. He has friends and a cousin who are also seniors who, like him, may be denied their final bow before graduating.
They won’t be if Drama Club director Steve Schmidt can help it, even if the show is delayed to the summer.
“There’s no way we’re not going to perform,” he said.
On March 13, the Friday before the shutdown, Schmidt had been prepared to drive to Aston to pick up stage effect equipment. Tech rehearsal was scheduled for the next day.
“These are trying times for us as adults, but for a young kid, life just stopped,” he said.
He said he and the school are dedicated to getting the 106 first- to 12th-grade kids involved with the production on the stage – eventually.
For now, MaST students have joined others across the globe in turning to online learning. To keep his students in practice and high spirits, Schmidt is encouraging them to upload videos of them performing songs from the show to post on Facebook. Modeled after Broadway and music stars uploading videos from home or even streaming live concerts, Schmidt said he uploads one or two videos a day for students and parents to see.
“I’ve been receiving videos on a daily basis,” he said.
Later this week, students will host a virtual living room concert, where a handful of them will perform songs from Oz or other shows, similar to the cast of Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill’s concert last week.
The production was going to be a culmination of Blocker’s relationship with musical theater. He wasn’t a fan of music or acting when he was younger, but when his mom rented a DVD of Oz, he fell in love with it, especially the role of Scarecrow.
“When I was in third grade I auditioned for the role of Scarecrow but didn’t get him,” Blocker said. That experience motivated him to continue participating in shows and building confidence.
He participated in musical theater every year since, hoping they’d announce Oz as that year’s show.
“It made me into the person I am today,” he said.
Somewhere over the rainbow, the show will go on.