Teatro Leyden tackles radio drama in new medium
District 212's award-winning bilingual theater program Teatro Leyden is doing all it can to keep theater art alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To that end, the group has come up with a unique combination that is reminiscent of a 1930s radio drama, a mixture that is educational and entertaining.
Traditional school closed March 13, just one week after Teatro Leyden participants began rehearsing what was to be the world premiere of "Wave," a play about a Mexican family facing separation, civil unrest and hope against hope, specifically written for Teatro Leyden.
Scheduled for live stage performances in May, the productions would be alternating in English and Spanish.
When it was determined the company would not be able to perform the play live, the production staff spent March and April "workshopping" the play with 30 student actors and six student tech crew members. During this time, the play was revised 17 times. This transformation rendered the play ready for a debut in the spring of 2021.
However, seven members of Teatro Leyden were on track to graduate in May. They wouldn't have the opportunity to be part of next spring's production -- a play they had been an integral part of throughout the production process.
Director Frank Bavone and technical director/stage manager Vic Pilolla decided the students' efforts should be recognized, so they developed a dynamic way to allow the graduating seniors one final performance as a part of Teatro Leyden.
"Currently, there are two popular options for pandemic performances in theater," Bavone said. "The first is live table reads on Zoom, where stage directions are read out loud. The second is post produced audio drama. Vic suggested we combine the two and produce something akin to a 1930s radio drama."
By doing this, Bavone says, "we keep the live element that actors thrive on combined with technical aspects, including Foley (sound) artists. This is educational theater at its peak, honing the craft while learning how to perform in a new medium."
The result is a unique blend of problem-solving skills and unhindered imagination.
"I thought, let's do it the old-fashioned way, like the Foley sound artists," Pilolla said. "I wanted the tech kids to make as many sounds as possible 'live,' to explore and to keep trying until it works. How do you make the sound of snow crunching underfoot, the sound of a wave hitting the shore?"
The students worked at it and discovered that crushing cornflakes creates the sound of snow crunching underfoot; and if you hurl a lot of water into a plastic pool you've got the sound of a wave crashing onshore.
Pilolla adds, however, that occasionally a taped sound is the only way to go.
"Sometimes we have to use taped sounds, like the sounds whales make. But, overall, we try to do as much as possible live."
The theater company, including Spanish language consultant Rich Drobny and sound designer alumnus Fabian Bartos, continue to rehearse daily, their efforts to culminate in two live performances over YouTube Live on Saturday, July 11, in English and Sunday, July 12, in Spanish.
Participants will be performing live from their homes, with no sound studios involved, and using the same Leyden 1:1 technology used for e-learning.
"This is the only performance of its kind that we know of being done anywhere in the theatrical world, in particular by a high school," says Bavone, who is a member of Leyden's tech support team.
"But Leyden is always at the forefront of educational technology, even when it comes to theater."
Visit leyden212.org to connect to Teatro Leyden's audio drama "Wave."
For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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