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Oyster Bay High School’s ‘Songs for a New World,’ a hit

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Students at Oyster Bay High School shared their talents in a live production of “Songs for a New World” last weekend, participating in the cast, orchestra, set design and stage crew. The play is a blend of musical theater and song cycle, with each song emblematic of being at a “crossroads” in life, as well as the importance of support during situations of uncertainty.

“All of the songs and their messages and those moments of having to make decisions totally fit in our time right now,” said Terriann Chiappardi, the play’s director.

Chiappardi noted that the play was also appropriate because it could easily be moved to an online format. “We weren't sure whether we’d be fully remote, whether we’d be partially remote and we knew once we started this program, we would never let the kids down and we would see it through no matter what that looked like,” she said. “So, we had to pick a show that we knew we could pivot or transition to remote or virtually if we had to.”

Planning for the show began in October 2020, when coronavirus pandemic restrictions created challenges. Since then, the fine and performing arts department has developed ways to adapt to the circumstances. For example, students had to be 12 feet apart while singing, with masks on, and the formation of the stage was adjusted to accommodate social distancing.

Anthony Femino, the OBHS Fine and Performing Arts supervisor, said that the biggest change was that there was not a live audience. The school worked with an outside company to livestream the performance.

Both Chiappardi and Femino agreed that despite the absence of a traditional audience, the livestream was beneficial, because there was no limit to the amount of people who could purchase a ticket, and anyone in the world could tune in to see the show. Many of the cast and crew have family members who live in places such as Florida, who were able to watch the performance.

According to Ava Aschettino and Sam Lingen, two seniors from the cast, everyone was able to adjust.

Ava, who has been involved in the performing arts since seventh grade, said that this year’s cast and crew was extremely dedicated and passionate about theater.

The play itself was altered slightly to allow for more participation. There are only four roles, but Chiappardi decided to give everyone the same number of songs, Sam said. This way the entire cast, including the seventh graders, where given their fair share of songs to perform.

Sam said that despite the barrier of masks creating some muffling while singing, he thinks the cast did well working around the issue producing strong sounds.

Jillian Haguisan, a senior flutist in the orchestra said social distancing regulations interfered with the acoustics of the orchestra, making it difficult for members to hear each other and coordinate, while playing their instruments. The orchestra, which used to take up a small area known as the “pit,” had to spread out.

Maria McKevitt has been a part of the stage crew for her entire high school career. This year, as a senior, she helped with lighting design.

“It's definitely been quite the transition,” Maria said. “We've had to adapt to not being able to be in person as much. Although everyone in our crew was very committed to being together and working on this production as a whole, we had to move to more renting different props and set as opposed to making them.”

Additionally, she said, everyone had to adjust to more digital backdrops as opposed to those painted by students.

Despite these major changes, Maria said that being able to work on the production has brought a sense of normalcy for her each day and has given everyone involved something to look forward to.