SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Theater like most everything people hold near and dear has gone dark in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown impacting New Jersey, the nation and the world. The Spotswood High School Troupers had to cancel their four-run performance of "Once on This Island" last week as the Spotswood School District joined others in closing its doors. However, that has not stopped Spotswood High School Drama and Communication Arts teacher Annie Raczko from sharing the joys and spirit of the theater from the Spotswood Troupers Instagram account with daily posts. Raczko and her Spotswood School District colleagues are teaching students remotely. While the show can't go on at the moment, Raczko is sharing their top ten drama moments from the 2019-20 season. Take a bow!

  • Following Friday rehearsals, the troupers would form compliment circles with each participant giving a specific compliment to the person on their left. Since the compliments were limited to two sentences, students often sent classmates an extra paragraph filled with praise afterwards. At their last meeting before school was closed indefinitely on March 12, the troupers held a pseudo compliment circle where each complimented one another.
  • Auditions and callbacks are filled with anxiety and pressure. Following two days of auditions and callbacks all the actors where so proud of each other they had a spontaneous group hug. "This symbolizes the team work and support they (the students) brought to each rehearsal," Raczko said.
  • The scenic artists, prop crew, stage crew and makeup artists are the backbone of any production. These students gave up after school time and Saturdays to help the actors "create magic on stage" for "Once on This Island" at their crew sessions.
  • Fundraising is a necessary part of any production and the Spotswood Troupers did it with style and talent. "From singing and working at the Applebee's Flapjack Fundraiser, singing outside Stop and Shop or singing and washing cars at our fall car wash, each trouper brought enthusiasm and creativity to our fundraising efforts," Raczko said.
  • Spotswood High School's annual One Act Play Competition concludes Spirit Week every fall. "Each grade level competes against each other and comes up with an original play that connects to Homecoming," Raczko explained.
  • "Sitzprobe is the first time the cast sing with the orchestra," Raczko said of this memorable highlight. "It was a magical moment where the show felt real."
  • Costuming is a large part of any production and helps make the characters real for the audience. "Our costumer Elana Kircher asked each actor the backstory of their character in order to costume them purposely," Raczko said. "Each actor spoke with extreme detail that Kircher took into consideration in order to make their costume specific to their character."
  • "This year with the help of Donors Choose and generous donations, we were able to get cyc lights for the stage that our lighting designers/crew worked creatively to create a purposeful lighting for our show," Raczko explained.
  • The troupers final rehearsal was a tough one on March 12. "After sitting with the cast and crew before the dress rehearsal, the directors stated that there was a high probability that we would not have a show next week," Raczko said. "We talked and shared, then wiped our tears and the troupers gave the performance of their lives and performed with grace and tenacity. The directors could not be more proud of them."

Broadway went dark on March 12, but that has not stopped the music. Tony award-winning performer Laura Benanti invited high school performers across the country who had their performances closed as well to post song videos from their plays and tag her Instagram account. Raczko did just that sharing a clip of the Spotswood Troupers performing a song from "Once on This Island."

"Having famous Broadway Star Laura Benanti share a clip of our show on her Twitter account made us feel seen and acknowledged," Raczko said. "Knowing that so many high schools and Broadway is dark right now, but people are still creating theatre and making art gives us hope."