Local Performing Arts Students Find Unique Way to Perform Musical During Pandemic

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Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas has been known for more than six decades for its performing arts program.

That storied history now has yet another unique accomplishment.

“This quarantine came as a surprise to us and it was devastating to us as teachers and to our students,” said John Beaird, theater director at Woodrow Wilson High School. “After we got over the shock of the schools being closed, I got together with some teachers and parents and started brainstorming ideas that could allow us to at least do something within the confines of the quarantine.”

They decided to have the students perform together, virtually.

“The theatre is an art that is based on collaboration and being a united ensemble. That is hard to do when we can’t be together! It was important to me that whatever we did, it had to capture that sense of ensemble and collaboration, and also the fun that we have when we produce our musical,” Beaird said.

Their performance of Mamma Mia! was upended by the pandemic, but they decided to use the unfortunate experience to take up a new motto, “Voices Apart, Together At Heart.”

Beaird, the students and a few volunteers put together a tribute video. A local production company, Charlie Uniform Tango, helped the kids put together isolation videos of each singing portions of the musical. They then put all those pieces together to form a video the students could cherish forever.

One of those students is senior Abby Daniels. She said the cancellation of the play was devastating, but what they were able to create from this heartbreaking experience is truly remarkable.

“To me personally, taking the news of the musical being canceled was much worse than the news of prom or graduation. This group of seniors have been together for a long time and it was hard to know we’d never get our moment we had worked so hard for. But, with that being said, making the video was super fun! Not the same as the real thing, but we have awesome teachers and parents who still made sure something was done and made us seniors feel special and I’m so grateful for that,” Daniels said.

Though this has been tough on everyone, Beaird said he thinks they will come out stronger on the other side.

“This distance teaching is extremely difficult. Teaching and learning are a hands-on, face to face, thing.  It is important that we find ways to really work together to ensure that our students have an incredible education and that our seniors have a sense of closure and accomplishment.  This tribute has been an ideal way to bring us together,” he said.

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