AHS Spring Musical is an Impossible Dream Made Possible
The students of Anderson Theatre began rehearsals in February for this year’s 57th Spring Musical, “Man of La Mancha.” The most famous song from this musical is “The Impossible Dream,” and that is what the show seemed to become when schools were shut down in mid March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Theatre Teacher and Director Chad Weddle was in his Studio Theatre class when the announcement was made to the school. At first, like the students around him, he panicked. “Then I sat down, took a breath, looked around the room, and thought, “we can still do this. I don’t know how yet, but with these kids, I know we will find a way.’”
As the school closure extended into May, and then to the end of the school year, High Schools and Theatre companies throughout the Cincinnati area began cancelling their productions. Anderson High School, however, had a resource most other organizations did not: a strong Film Department.
“The Anderson High School Spring Musical has been a cornerstone of our community for decades,” says Mr. Weddle. “I felt a responsibility to the thousands of past FHSD students who had carried on the tradition, as well as to my current students—over 120 of them in cast and crew.
“While so many school events, competitions, the prom, concerts, were being cancelled—we knew that if we could do this safely, then we needed to do it, for the emotional health of the students,” Mr. Weddle explained.
Mr. Weddle’s plan to leverage the skills his students had gained in Film classes evolved over the weeks, adapting to new restrictions and guidelines, always with the safety of the students a high priority. It is now complete, and the 57th Spring Musical will be presented as a YouTube Film Premiere event, likely in the final weeks of May.
Paige Resor, a Senior who was cast as Aldonza, says she is very grateful to Mr. Weddle and all the participating students. “Being a senior is so very hard. And I think it’s really great that we found a way to do this, and that everyone is so supportive. I’ve never been a part of a cast who worked so hard for each other.”
Each actor had to create a mini film studio in their home, using only equipment and materials they already had available. Student crew members gave feedback and advice, helping their friends find and solve problems, but the burden was on the actors to get things right. While not every student involved in the original production felt they could continue, over 100 are still contributing to the performance in some fashion.
“I’m not a technician,” admitted Nick Gundrum, a Sophomore who plays one of the Muleteers. “But it started to be fun, something to do. I made my own tripod, and it was fun. It’s gonna be awesome to have that final product we can all look back on. We’ll be able to watch it in the future with everyone and feel like we were a part of something.”
Caitlin Walsh is a Senior and a Student Director for the show. She is pleased with the hard work done by all the students. “It’s not necessarily the easiest thing we have done; it’s a lot to ask of everyone. But we all need that bit of creative spontaneity…that excitement we get from being in Theatre.”
“I am very excited to do this,” says Tommy Sanders, a Junior playing Dr. Carrasco. “With so many other uncertainties and cancellations, it means a lot. While I may not know about this problem or that problem, and I don’t even know when I’ll get out of my house, I do know I have this. I have this opportunity right here.”
Braden Perry, a Junior playing another Muleteer, knows this will have a positive effect on the community, as well. “We’re talking about a tradition where the entire southwest part of Ohio has is interested in what we are putting on,” he says. “If we can impact one person, I think this whole process is worth it.”
“I appreciate everything Mr. Weddle is doing for us, how he’s sticking with the show,” says Stella Scheidler, who plays the Barber. “Theatre is what’s getting us through this.”
“I believe in these students, every one of them.” says Mr. Weddle. “Theatre is partly about the process. Keeping the show alive is our way to continue to spend time together and support one another.”
Mr. Weddle adds, “It’ll be something the students can talk about in years to come, when someone asks them what they did during the quarantine, what happened. When we look down the road we’ll be able to tell them the story of how we were able to come together and create something remarkable. This is what we do. We create together. That’s what we do.”
“Man of La Mancha” will be presented to the public online, free of charge, some time in late May as a YouTube Premiere. For more information, including ways you can donate to the Anderson Theatre department to offset their costs and support future productions, visit www.AndersonTheatre.com. The confirmed date of the Premiere will be posted there and on the Anderson Theatre Facebook page. To view more AHS student film work, including the three short films of their 2020 Film Festival, visit the Anderson Film YouTube Channel.