South Side High School’s production of “The Theory of Relativity” successfully streamed performances virtually between May 6 and 8, marking a triumphant return after the 2020 production was halted mere weeks ahead of opening night.
Pam Seiderman, the director, had to manage the production as part play, part movie, filming, recording and editing it over the course of a few days. Drone footage was even utilized for outdoor scenes, where students could socially distance and not need to wear masks.
Seiderman credited her crew for using unique methods to weave in live and pre-recorded songs and scenes that were edited together. “It takes a village,” she said. “It was a lot, and we had to get creative, but we think we did the best we could in the circumstances, and I’m really proud of what we created.”
The play, which was adapted from the 2016 book by Brian Hill, focuses on college students and the importance of human interaction. “It’s really about how, though it seems like we’re all disconnected, we’re actually all connected in this world, and we need each other,” Seiderman said.
The play was also chosen because of the smaller cast required, which worked better given coronavirus safety protocols. Students submitted virtual auditions in January, and callbacks were done via Zoom, although everyone was cast — about two dozen students.
Rehearsals took place on Zoom through February, when the school allowed students to gather on stage again. “Once we pivoted to on-stage, the joy came back into the students,” Seiderman said. “Once we were there, everything just started to fall into place.”
The performances were filmed and recorded in the first two weeks of April, and the rest of the month was devoted to editing, until the show was ready for opening night on May 6.
“I had to be more involved in thinking of it as a film,” Seiderman said. She and technical director Robert Lichter worked to include special effects, and collaborated on which shots to use and where to use them.
Brian Remy, a co-producer of the show, said students came in on Saturdays and worked for four hours at a time on the lighting and set. Their temperatures were checked every time to ensure their safety. “For the CDC guidelines, we followed them to a T,” Remy said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The guidelines went as far as to limit how long cast members could sing, so there was time to air out the space. They wore masks for the duration of the rehearsals and were often tested for Covid-19.
If any of the students had tested positive or had been exposed to someone who had, the school would have had to shut down rehearsals and any behind-the-scenes work in the auditorium. Luckily for the cast and crew, no one tested positive during the whole production process from February through May.
Last year’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” was shut down during “tech week,” after nearly everything had been built and set up for the production. “We were kind of living under the fear of what happened last March,” Remy said, “but we feel very lucky that it all came together this time.”
Marlene Albarano, whose son, Nicolas, was active in middle school productions, said she was excited to see the high school show. “We’re grateful for having such an amazing arts and music program throughout our schools,” Albarano said. “Our faculty and students really have an opportunity to bond and create long-lasting experiences and relationships.”
“They were resilient,” Seiderman said of her cast and crew. “It’s a testament to them that they were committed, and they kept going. They wanted to make theater any which way.”