Eight grader Nico Workum is sitting in the middle school library reviewing her lines—in particular, the part where she lists a dozen breakfast items, all featuring Spam. Her classmates, Ollie Pezone and Aya Greenspan, are in the conference room being filmed wrangling over a dead parrot. In the library classroom, Memphis Bradford loosens his tie, preparing to look for an argument.
It’s filming day for John Jay Middle School Theater Club’s presentation of “Socially Distant Scenes from Monty Python”—a highlight reel of eight skits from the legendary comedic troupe of Monty Python, suitable for all ages. Cohort A’s production will be available beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, March 5, for continuous viewing, and Cohort B’s production will be available beginning 7 p.m. Saturday, March 6. The links will be posted on the John Jay Middle School webpage (jjms.klschools.org).
While director David Fritsch, cinematographer Joe Sipos, and sound designer/video editor Jesse Weiss have been Monty Python fans for decades, many of the actors were introduced to the comedy group’s material through being in the play.
“My parents love Monty Python,” Nico said. “I never really knew it before.”
While the constraints of COVID have kept students off the stage, it has resulted in a creative construct of two casts—one for each cohort of students—acting in filmed segments, in which the actors wear masks and keep socially distant, and segments recorded on Zoom, during which the actors perform unmasked and at a safe distance from one another. The production combines standard aspects of theater such as costume design—accessing the talents of Aria Linz, JJHS Class of 2016—with green screen backdrops and virtual backgrounds via Zoom.
“It has definitely been a time when we have had to think ‘out of the box,’” said producer Marcia Daley-Savo. “I am always amazed and inspired by our creative team who built props from scratch (see the awesome parrot cage and holy hand grenade) and by their positive thinking and willingness to try new things. It models for our students that with perseverance and creativity anything can be accomplished.”
The students are glad that John Jay Middle School’s Theater Club found a way to do a play this winter. “I’ve had fun at the Zoom rehearsals and like having something to memorize,” Ollie said. “I can’t wait to see how this works out.”
This article was written by the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.