Talon Theatre’s Into the Woods virtual production was a monumental feat. During a ten-hour recording session, the show was run and recorded in real-time twice to accommodate both casts with only occasional pauses for technical difficulties. The recording was done on Zoom on Mrs. Barth’s tablet from her home.
Musical interludes were played by Mr. Winn on his piano from his home. Prior to the recording session, the cast rehearsed everything from how to transfer from a stage performance to a screen performance, where to focus and how to transition from scene to scene, sometimes requiring them to duck to the floor before hitting their computer key to “hide non-video participants.”
Experimenting with various settings and virtual backgrounds the cast and crew worked as a team to create on-screen scenic designs that transformed the performance. Technical and dress rehearsals were conducted after the cast picked up their costumes in a drive-by. Makeup and hair tutorials were virtual. During the performance, each performer was in their own room at home. In addition to performing, each student had to serve as their own technical director/computer operator adjusting settings and virtual backgrounds and making costume changes throughout the show.
The technical challenges included bandwidth and WiFi inconsistencies, limitations of Zoom’s capabilities to process choral music, ghosting with virtual backgrounds and computer microphone levels. “As you watch this showcase, I would urge each performer to set aside critique and celebrate your amazing effort and accomplishment. The quality of the acting and vocals and the connection and commitment to character moment by moment with no production support is astonishing. Sheer will, determination, grace, gift and talent are on full display,” said Amy Luskey-Barth, Artistic Director Talon Theatre.
Countless hours were spent editing and adding sound effects, titles, credits and scoring the entire show with piano – adjusting tempos and keys as needed in a process akin to scoring a film. This was done twice for the Green and Blue performances. The result is a perfectly imperfect presentation. Every effort was made to enhance audio quality whenever possible. In some cases, it was impossible due to the original recording levels resulting in some dropped audio and acapella songs. There was nothing to be done about the group singing cacophony. This is a direct result of Zoom’s inability to process music and voices from remote locations. Barth said, “I would encourage you to simply laugh but also focus on the commitment of the acting and movement in those moments.”
*Warning: Due to copyright laws and restrictions no part of the Zoom Spring Musical 2020 Showcase recording may be posted on any social media or YouTube. This is a private recording of a showcase. There is no charge for viewing the Vimeo link. Click here for Talon Theatre 2020 Spring Musical Zoom Showcase (Green Cast). Click here for Talon Theatre 2020 Spring Musical Zoom Showcase (Blue Cast).