For young Big Bear performers, they found a way for their shows to go on, even when there isn’t an audience.
The Big Bear High School Performing Arts Department was in the second weekend of its winter show, “Almost, Maine,” when the plug was pulled because of COVID-19. Instructor Brian Adams, with the help of volunteer Bob Perry, found a way to keep the show going by organizing a last-minute digital production on March 13.
Student actors arrived at the high school to an empty building that evening knowing their hard work would be preserved. As the young actors waited for their turn, they practiced lines in the hallway.
“It’s a little scary,” student Jimmy Crist said about the situation. “It was definitely disappointing, especially not knowing what is going to happen. At least we get to film it.”
Senior Trinity Lowe said everyone was upset when they first learned about the last three shows being canceled. “As theater people, we always tell our friends and family to come the second weekend, now they can’t,” Lowe said. “But it’s no one’s fault. Doing this (digital project) softened the blow.”
Lowe said she is concerned about upcoming high school projects including “Cinderella” and a choir competition in Anaheim.
“Because of the time off we won’t have enough time to get ready to do ‘Cinderella,’” Adams said on March 16. “We haven’t been notified that the competition at Disney is canceled so we are going forward with that right now. Of course, it can all change. If they do cancel it, we’ll get refunded close to $4,000 that we’ve already paid for it.”
Adams said he plans to contact the licensing agent for “Cinderella” to see if they would let him create a concert version of the show for a lower fee. If not, he said, they will find something else to fill the spot on the calendar if they are back in school.
While the high school’s latest production was winding down, Big Bear Middle School Performing Arts Department was preparing for a dress rehearsal for its musical “Frozen JR.” That show was originally scheduled for March 19-21 at the PAC. When news came of the cancellation, teacher Suzy Carpenter had to break the news to a room full of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
“One little girl was crying so hard, she was shaking,” Carpenter said. “These are children who don’t have a clue of the serioiusness of this virus. They are just seeing their immediate priority in life being taken away. The semi-good news is that we will hopefully get to perform in May.”
“Frozen JR” has tentatively been rescheduled for May 21-24 at the PAC. Carpenter is keeping her fingers crossed.
In the meantime, Carpenter has a bill of about $5,000 for rights, costume, set and special effect rentals to worry about.
“Without the show, we don’t have the revenue,” she said.
Gloria Meade solicited donations from local businesses for opportunity drawings to do during the show, worth more than $1,500. That will help, but ticket sales will be important, too.
Adams said while the adjustment to creating a video rather than performing before a live audience was a different experience for his high school students, he is proud of what they accomplished.
“Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted it to end,” Adams said. “But what we did Friday night was absolutely amazing. It was such a different atmosphere. It felt like we were doing something special together as a family. Trinity said at the cast party that she thought it was some of the best acting they’ve ever done. I think she’s right. They all grew as actors.
“It was a disappointment, but they were able to have such a feeling of accomplishment.”