Due to COIVD-19, this year’s Homecoming musical will not be performed live and instead prerecorded.
The theatre department announced in February that they were going to put on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Because of many restrictions in place for coronavirus precautions, they are no longer producing the musical but a modernized short film of the simple children’s story that is set to release Friday.
Dawne Swearingen-Meeks, chairwoman of the theater department, said that the team pleaded with the production rights company in New York to do some kind of filmed version of the musical. After being denied the rights, plans were changed to some version of the public domain short story.
“We are really utilizing the ‘storybook capital of America’ with our filming and rehearsal locations,” Swearingen-Meeks said.
From Oct. 1-4, the cast and crew worked 10-12-hour days filming, with the first shoot day taking place on the roof of The Grace Museum. All filming and rehearsals take place outside, with students and faculty observing social distance guidelines and mask regulations.
In order to pull off a short film, the usual theater crew decided to pull in more help from the filmmaking community. Along with several students from the journalism and mass communication department, this new team consists of several professionals from across the country from New York City to Los Angeles.
A large part of the team comes from New York: Emmy-nominated Scenic Designer, and Location Scout and alum, David Ultey; choreographer and professional ballerina, Lily Balogh; Abilene-born director Jeff Smith and lead director of photography, Ryan Broomburg.
Hailing from Los Angeles are Catherine Baumgardner, Costume Designer and Jason Baumgardner, serving as producer. Swearingen-Meeks, a NYC transplant as well, served as executive producer.
Overall, the production is establishing opportunities for students during a time of cancellations and modifications. Required to think outside the box, the department is creating in newfound ways.
“I am delighted that our students are having this opportunity,” Swearingen-Meeks said. “We’ve never done anything like this, and if it wasn’t for COVID we wouldn’t be doing this.”