With the pandemic upending live performances and darkening theaters worldwide, Dover-Sherborn actors, directors, and stage crew were forced to switch gears and wear many hats to give the middle school students and the community the exciting drama experience they eagerly anticipate every year.
“Our initial disappointment of not being able to perform a live show quickly gave way to a collaborative effort on the part of directors and students alike,” says Claire Mackay, Sherborn resident and director of DS Middle School musicals. After spending the summer researching different options for a virtual experience, Mackay came up with the idea of weaving a story around favorite songs from a variety of Broadway musicals.
Expanding her role to playwright, Mackay reached out to high school student directors to share their experiences with online learning, lockdowns, and funny anecdotes. She started developing characters and chronicling their journeys through the pandemic. Music Directors Ardys Flavelle and Geoff Herrmann, along with Mackay’s cousin, Kate Leavey of Natick, pitched in to assist in creating scenes, editing script, and rewriting lyrics to create “DSMS Zoomsical.”
The production crew also had to evolve and take on new challenges. During a normal year, DS High School senior and technical crew head, Nolan Sayer, is in charge of set builds, lighting plans, and backstage crew. However, this year he volunteers his time editing video clips for the middle and high school productions. In addition, he has become the official “drama drone operator.” Sayer says of his shift in responsibilities: “As an avid photographer, I became interested in aerial videography. During the initial weeks of the pandemic, I purchased a drone and learned to operate it.” Mackay was excited to use Sayer’s new-found talent to film the cast in several scenes, including aerial footage of dance routines over the DS football field and a car parade in a Sherborn neighborhood.
Dover residents and parent volunteers Beth Harvey and Peggy Gemelli usually assist with productions by providing cast refreshments and helping backstage. Now their roles have transformed into those of drive-in movie aficionados determining the logistics necessary to showcase the world premiere of “DSMS Zoomsical” on a jumbo movie screen in the Dover-Sherborn Middle School parking lot.
Also venturing into new territory, the middle school drama students had to do their own character hairstyles and lighting, as well as record and video themselves singing and acting in their own homes. Ardys Flavelle, a Sherborn resident and longstanding DS orchestra and music director, recorded herself singing so the cast could use the tracks to learn and record the songs.
Gus Laughlin, former Dover-Sherborn actor and recent NYU Drama graduate, lent his expertise to the production. In a hiatus from his usual on-stage roles as an actor and comedian, Laughlin channeled his creative energy into editing and combining hundreds of video clips using Adobe Premiere Pro, an industry-leading video editing software, in order to provide a lively, funny, and relatable movie for audience members of all ages. Keeping the length of the film to an hour, the audience will be able to stay comfortable and warm while viewing from the comfort of their own cars in February.
Neighbors are invited to bring their own popcorn, candy, and blankets to experience one of America’s most beloved pastimes - drive-in movie theaters - right at Dover-Sherborn Middle School’s parking lot. To keep everyone safe while viewing the movie, cars should include people who are of the same residence or same “pod.”
Drive-in showtimes for the world premiere of “DSMS Zoomsical” are Friday, February 26, at 7:30 p.m., and two shows on Saturday, February 27, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Attendees are asked to arrive 30 minutes in advance. Tickets for the drive-in production are $30 per car and must be purchased in advance at http://www.showtix4u.com/events/dsms. For further information about the show, visit www.tiny.cc/zoomsicaldsms.