Taking the Screen

BVNW’s theater program finds a way to perform online due to COVID-19.


Photo from Sydney Kohart

Cast members meet over zoom to rehearse for their roles.

BVNWs theater program produced a virtual play with the purpose of giving actors a way to perform while keeping everyone safe. The play is titled “Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.” The play will be offered for on-demand streaming for two days, Dec. 4 and 5, through Show Share. People can access the play by purchasing a ticket through this link, then stream it on one of the two nights it is available.

Sydney Kohart, the new theater teacher is directing this play. Kohart came to BVNW this school year after five years of teaching at Shawnee Mission North High School. She said she has needed to find ways to meet with students virtually because of restrictions brought on by COVID-19, but Kohart said that she has still had a good experience meeting the community.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet all the students and all the awesome Northwest community,” Kohart said.
Teayom Karimpourian, a sophomore, and the actress who plays the roles of Witch 1 and Witch 2 in the play, said she enjoys having Kohart as a teacher because Kohart is fun and organized.
Kennedy Wells, a senior, and the actress who plays the roles of Girl, Prince and Queen, said Mrs. Kohart has been a great director even though the play looks different.
“Mrs. Kohart has helped me grow as an actress,” Wells said. “Having three roles makes memorization hard, but Mrs. Kohart has helped me work through it.”
Kohart said that theater looks different this year than it normally does, but it has still been a good experience for her. One of the many things that have changed are props, this year with each cast member filming their own part from home props have had to be sterilized and distributed to their corresponding actor.

Karimpourian said that the play is different from any other plays she has done in the past due to its online format. Karimpourian said the new format has taught her a lot about theater.
“You learn so much,” Karimpourian said. “I like seeing…where we started when we knew nothing about the play to now knowing everything about the play in the end.”
Wells said that although the unique setup of the play has sometimes been challenging, the online play offers some benefits. Wells also said the play can be watched whenever people have free time during the two days it is available, so people aren’t limited to viewing it at a set time.
“This is a really good chance for actors’ out-of-town relatives to get to see the play when they couldn’t have in person,” Wells said.
The audition process was virtual to keep participants safe. Actors filled out an online form demonstrating their interest in performing and Kohart sent out a Zoom link that could be used to access the auditions. There were two audition days. Once an actor joined the Zoom, they would wait in the Zoom’s waiting room until Kohart admitted them. The actors were given a script ahead of time to read out loud while Kohart determined what the best role or roles would be for that actor based on their performance.
“[The audition process] was really chill,” Karimpourian said. “I got on the Zoom at 3:30 and stayed in the waiting room until the director brought me in. It took about five minutes. For callbacks, everyone who had been invited got on [Zoom] and we ran through a scene.”
After auditions, Kohart made a callback list based on the results of the auditions. Callbacks are similar to a second audition. They are used to give the director more information about the actors’ abilities to help her decide what the best roles for each actor would be. To an actor, being called back means that person is being considered for a specific part. During callbacks, the actors would read excerpts from the script that Kohart sent previously.
Rehearsals take place after school over Zoom and last for about an hour and a half. A rehearsal calendar lets the students know what portions of the script will be covered each day and what kind of rehearsal will take place. Kohart said she is trying to minimize the amount of time actors are spending on devices during rehearsals.
“Since it’s through Zoom, I was really cognizant of Zoom fatigue or just being on the computer for too long so all of our rehearsals were scheduled for an hour and a half,” Kohart said.
Wells said that performing online has let her use her creativity and taught her how to be adaptive.
“For props I was able to pick up two from the school [props] closet, but mostly we come up with [the props] on our own,” Wells said. “Also, I had to get my costumes out of my own clothes.”
Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, Kohart has a positive outlook on both the play and the theater program overall.
“I have been really impressed with the Northwest theater students and their willingness to jump into something so new,” Kohart said. “It looks slightly different but they’re doing a great job with the changes so I’ve just felt really lucky to be here.”