Grandview Heights High School's 'Clue' will be livestreamed Nov. 13, 14

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Grandview Heights High School senior Juliana Bongiorno, as the Singing Telegram, films scenes Oct. 29 for the "Clue" play. The theater department is filming the play on a green screen, and a production team will edit the scenes and add backgrounds so the play can be livestreamed Nov. 13 and 14.

As they say in the theater, the show must go on.

Despite the school district's health and safety protocols that prohibit large gatherings, Grandview Heights High School is offering a fall play production.

"Clue" will be presented as a livestream at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, and Saturday, Nov. 14, via the Broadway on Demand streaming service.

"It's been quite an adventure putting this all together,"  director Cary Mitchell said. "That's how we've looked at it – a student experimentation that's also an adventure.

"This has been a whole new process," he said. "There's no manual or textbook giving best practices for how to do a virtual livestream play in the middle of a pandemic. We've been kind of making it up as we go along."

Mitchell is serving for the first time as director of a GHHS play. He moved to Columbus in 2019 after living and working in the theater for a dozen years in New York City. He is teaching and earning his master's degree at Ohio State University in the Art Administration Education and Policy Department and works with Short North Stage.

Director Cary Mitchell films as senior Ellie Kahle, as Mrs. White, performs her scenes for "Clue" on Oct. 29.

"Clue" is based on the 1985 movie that was inspired by the popular board game.

Rehearsals for the play started on Zoom, but once the district switched to a hybrid model, with students attending school in,person either in the morning or afternoon every day, it allowed cast and crew members to gather in the auditorium, although in limited numbers and with safety protocols in place, Mitchell said.

"We limited gatherings to 10 or fewer people, and everyone wore masks and kept proper social distance," he said. 

Props that were handled by multiple actors were sanitized after each use, Mitchell said.

Mitchell captured the production using an iPhone.

"We were able to get the cast up on stage, but they performed their scenes individually with a green screen as background," he said. "Our tech crew will be working to edit and put together the whole thing for the livestream, adding images to serve as the scenery and background."

Because the play was captured one scene and one actor at a time, the process was closer in nature to a film rather than a traditional stage production, Mitchell said.

Because "Clue" is based on a film, it was a little easier to put the production together piecemeal rather than rehearsing and performing the show in full and on stage, he said.

"It also helps that 'Clue' is a lighthearted show with a lot of levity," Mitchell said. "It might have been different if this was a dramatic or musical production."

The students, both performers and those working in the crew, "really have risen to the challenge," he said. "The students came prepared, and in a lot of instances, we were able to capture their scene in one take."

Senior Kieren Bode portrays Wadsworth.

"It's definitely been a new kind of experience," he said. "There is so much that was new – a new director and a new style of doing things."

Performing in front of a green screen offers a chance to stretch oneself as an actor, Bode said.

"It was really different doing the scenes by yourself," he said. "We would have someone off stage reading the lines, but you weren't really interacting with them."

The challenge was in figuring out where to look and how to relate and react to an actor who wasn't there with him in person but will be once the final livestream is edited together, Bode said.

Being captured on an iPhone, "you can't move around as much and swing your arms," he said. "You have to remember not to look at the camera."

That doesn't necessarily mean toning down the performance, even if performing for an audience watching at home instead of collectively in the auditorium, Bode said.

"You have to express all of your character's emotions through the expression on your face," he said. 

Senior  Ashley Rosinski is serving as assistant director with Josephine Cantelmo.

"It's been amazing how quickly everything has changed," she said. "We started out working in Zoom, but then we were able to come together in a limited way in the auditorium. We've had to make adjustments all along the way."

What she misses most is the camaraderie and socializing that are part of a play production, she said.

"I'll miss the warm ups we'd have before a show, where everyone would gather together," Rosinski said.

The warm-ups were more than just getting ready for the show, she said. They also were a bonding experience.

Returning to the auditorium for rehearsals in limited numbers allows for some of that camaraderie, Rosinski said.

"The other night, some of us were spending time in the choir room, putting together what we're calling 'viewing boxes.' They're boxes filled with candy and popcorn we'll be giving out to the cast and crew that they can open when they watch the livestream," she said. "It wasn't the same thing as having everyone together. But it was fun hanging out and talking and laughing with some of my friends."

"I'm just really happy we're able to have a fall play this year," Bode said. "I really have to give a shout out to our director. He's made this a lot easier experience for us, even though it's all new to him, too."

Tickets for "Clue" will be on sale at broadwayondemand.com, Mitchell said.

A free subscription to Broadway on Demand is required to access the streaming performance, he said.

Broadway on Demand will provide instructions detailing the specifics of the stream. 

Additional questions should be directed to Mitchell at cary.mitchell@ghschools.org.

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