ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - For the drama students at Western Albemarle High School, COVID-19 felt like closing the curtain, an “end scene” to their time on stage.
“This department has been my life for four years. I put in so much time into all of these shows,” WAHS senior Baylee Hughes said. “You let out a lot of your emotional baggage on a stage and it’s very therapeutic to act, so losing that and losing that space to express yourself is a huge loss and it’s very hard to deal with.”
Thankfully, it was only an intermission. After months of auditioning and performing on Zoom, the department is back on the scene, gearing up for their in-person performance of Little Women, happening in May.
“This year, they have spent more time than ever just sitting in front of a computer, and now they get to come to rehearsal and get up on their feet and be expressive and sing,” Caitlin Pitts, the department’s director, said.
However, they’re not returning without some changes, like learning how to perform in a mask.
“We still have their eyes and then the body language, and then it becomes even more important,” Pitts explained. “If I want two characters coming together, that means they have to start out really far apart and then they come together but they’re still 6 feet apart.”
Hughes said despite the changes, she’s happy to be back on stage with her friends.
“It feels so much better to be with them on a stage, even though we are 6 feet apart, even though we do have masks. The connection is just there that we didn’t have on Zoom and it’s a lot easier to act together,” Hughes said.
The abrupt halt of in-person performances took a toll on the department’s funding, so this year they’re doing more with less.
“We’re definitely not spending as much money and we’re not focusing as much on set costumes because I really don’t feel like it’s the year for that. I really feel like it’s the year to focus on the kids and their wonderful performances and making sure everyone can see them and hear them and celebrate them,” Pitts said.
With scripts in hand under the spotlight, just sharing a stage is all that matters.
“It’s equally important that we carry on however we can, making whatever changes we need to so that they continue to get to have this experience, which is so positive and they get to learn so much from it, and we find ways to keep going,” Pitts said. “I don’t think we can let ourselves just completely shut down.”
“I think people are going to love what they have and be very thankful for the show that we give them,” Hughes said.