Theater Remains Resilient While Unexpected Circumstances Postpone Fall Play

Courtesy of Samantha Sanford
As the first virtual production at Portola High, this year’s fall play was filmed on Zoom instead of performed live. To accomodate for not being able to shoot in-person, all members used green screens to create the effect that they were in the same setting.

In addition to obstacles produced by COVID-19 restrictions, there were several unusual circumstances including recent fires and Wi-Fi outages that posed challenges for the theater department during the streaming of its virtual fall play, “One Stoplight Town.”

To accommodate the unexpected occurrences, performing arts teacher and director Samantha Sanford was pressed to make the difficult decision to delay the show. 

“In theater, the mentality is always, ‘The show must go on,’ and so that was like an internal struggle of mine, trying to decide what was best,” Sanford said. “But knowing how the previous Silverado fire had affected our community and understanding the potential for a wildfire to change course or flare quickly, I figured it was probably best for safety and practicality but also just for emotional health to postpone the show.”

After postponing the play by a week, on Dec. 10 there was a district-wide Wi-Fi outage, creating yet another challenge. Near the end of the day, with the problem still unresolved, Sanford made the tough call to once again delay the show’s streaming until Dec. 11 and 12 when the Wi-Fi would return.

Sanford and several cast members announced the deferrals through both a rigorous social media blitz and posters, which were designed by sophomore Sky Jaan and hung around the school.

“The show being postponed, I feel like it was kind of necessary, because the fire was kind of at a standby for evacuations,” Jaan said. “Yeah, I feel like it was pretty necessary, and it wasn’t like a nuisance or anything.”

Although the uncertainties of the fire and the unstable internet connection were unfavorable for both the cast and those awaiting the stream, Sanford reflected that there were some positives as well. 

“Our editing team had finished the first version Dec. 2 at like 1:30 a.m., so like 36 hours before we needed to push it out and stream it if we were on track for our first day,” Sanford said. “They had really been working up to kind of the final moment to finesse it and get it to a point to where they were happy with it, and they had gotten it there. But because we then had an extra week, I encouraged them to go back and watch the final edits, give each other notes. It was a team of four student editors, so I asked them to, since we have some more time: ‘Let’s look at it, make sure it looks like one unified vision instead of separate editors.’ So they went back and finessed it a little bit, which helped in creating a more polished final version.”

Junior Jamaal Walker, who played a leading role in the fall play, also acknowledged that despite the atypical format and inability to perform or rehearse in real time because of the pandemic, it was still a great opportunity. 

It still had the sense of community and family and coming together to really just entertain us through these times, set aside our school lives and just come together and work on what we’re passionate about.”

— Jamaal Walker

“It was definitely different than it was in the years prior; it was good though,” Walker said. “It still had the sense of community and family and coming together to really just entertain us through these times, set aside our school lives and just come together and work on what we’re passionate about.”