Spring play postponement gives cast, crew opportunity to reflect

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Sydney Wilfong

Coronavirus effects all. The spring musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," is postponed due to safety precautions surrounding the Coronavirus. The play is to rehearse and perform near the end of July and the beginning of August.

By Sydney Wilfong, Altoona Area High School

Due to the ongoing spread and global scare of the Coronavirus, drama students and staff must take the necessary precautions to protect the people of Altoona. Originally, the spring musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was to take place during the first week of April, but its performance will be rescheduled for the summer. 

Within the first week of quarantine, the play was postponed until mid-April; however, as events worsened, drama director Ben Cossitor was forced to push the dates further ahead for safety reasons. 

“It’s my hope to perform sometime this summer, but it’s really hard to work around summer camps, vacations, work schedules, etc. It’s not the cast’s fault this happened, and I would never expect them to give up a family trip,” Cossitor said. 

Cossitor opened a Google Hangout on March 31 for a meeting with the cast and crew. For the time being, rehearsal and performance dates are anticipated for late July and the first week of August. All rehearsals and performances will take place at the Mishler Theatre instead of at the high school auditorium. 

I just wish I could’ve performed on that stage this year for the last time,”

— senior Chelsea Jordan said.

For Cossitor and most of Altoona, the state of emergency was a shock. 

“We were right at the point where things come together very quickly- we were about to build the set, add the orchestra, lights, costumes…This all hit right as my life usually becomes crazy, so it was just jarring how quickly everything came to a halt. Even the oldest of your teachers have never been through something quite like this, so it caught us all by surprise. It’s the perfect example of how you read the news (like what was going on in Italy), and think, ‘Oh that will never happen here.’ When it does, you are just caught totally off-guard,” Cossitor said.  

A survey was sent out via email to all cast and crew members. The survey assesses how many students are still able to participate in the play during the summer as many had vacation plans prior to the spread of the coronavirus. 

For seniors, summer college courses can be an obstacle. Senior Sean Stuttard is one cast member who won’t be available for the new summer schedule.

“I’m sad that I will not be able to participate in the musical because we all worked hard to learn our dances and get it right. I will probably miss the friends that I made the most, but I’m very excited to attend Shippensburg University in the coming fall,” Stuttard said.

Unlike Stuttard, senior Adrianna Huss will be participating in the now summer play. Huss is part of the cast and the female ensemble.

“Since the show is postponed until summer, I am hoping that I will be able to work around any summer college classes that I may have…I feel like the hardest part about having our show in the summer may be trying to work around everyone’s plans or schedules since many people could have vacations or trips planned,” Huss said.

I get stressed over the small stuff when the reality is that there is so much in the moment to enjoy. Life is about the journey, not the destination, and I’ll try to not take that for granted anymore,”

— drama director Ben Cossitor said.

Not only has the state of emergency affected the schedule of the play, but it has delayed future moving plans. In April, plans were established to move prop inventory to the new B building, which was under construction until recently. As of now, new dates have not been scheduled.

“At this point, we just don’t know. School is closed ‘indefinitely’ but the stay-in-place order is only until April 30 right now. I hope we can return to school in May, or moving all the furniture, costumes, props and lumber that we store is definitely going to be difficult,” Cossitor said.  

For Cossitor, the cast and crew, the sudden interruption from the play highlights how much the production experience means to them.

“I have a tendency to get wrapped up in the details of the show, especially when we’re this close to the performance. I get stressed over the small stuff when the reality is that there is so much in the moment to enjoy. Life is about the journey, not the destination, and I’ll try to not take that for granted anymore. Our students were doing an amazing job, and it was so rewarding to see how kids from different circles that maybe wouldn’t have really been friends otherwise, become a family over the course of our rehearsals. I really miss this show family, and I hope that we can get back together before we all go our separate ways,” Cossitor said. 

“I just wish I could’ve performed on that stage this year for the last time,” senior Chelsea Jordan said.

The postponement of play doesn’t just cost memories, it costs money.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes into the theater program each year–we purchase the performance rights and materials for the shows months in advance. That is money that will be wasted if we don’t find a way to perform and recoup our money from ticket sales. We also have over 100 people involved in the production this year, including many students from the elementary and junior high school, and we have to somehow coordinate all those people’s schedules,” Cossitor said. 

Amidst the state of emergency, the cast and crew try their best to keep working on the play during the quarantine.

“I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack. Even though I’m only in costumes, it gives me a good feel for the characters,” senior Madolyn George said. 

“I have been reviewing my music along with going over choreography because we never know when we will have the opportunity to perform. Practicing keeps the show fresh in my mind,” junior Emily-Grace Garwood said.

Unlike most students, the postponement has not affected Garwood’s summer schedule.

“My plans for summer aren’t really affected by the show. It will give me more to do in the summer to keep me entertained. I am excited that we will be able to put on the show we have worked so hard on,” Garwood said.

Although this pandemic is a first for everyone, Cossitor notes what else the experience can bring.

“Sometimes things happen in life that are out of your control. Perhaps it doesn’t happen on quite this epic scale, but it teaches you to focus on what you can control. You can control how you react to this situation and you can choose to have a positive outlook. There’s certainly a lot of fear, mostly from the uncertainty of all this, but there are some bright sides,” Cossitor said.

Cossitor believes that despite recent events, students and staff can still find the positive and enjoy time with loved ones.

“Listen to the experts, stay home, wash your hands and enjoy this time with your family. All of you are on the cusp of adulthood, seeking your independence, but you’re going to find that once you get out into the world, you’ll miss the time you had with your parents and siblings. It’s perhaps hard to see right now, but this time with everyone finally sitting at the dinner table together, playing games, bonding with each other, will become memories that you look back on fondly,” Cossitor said. 

This story was originally published on Mountain Echo on April 8, 2020.