During the past year, the performing arts have faced extraordinary challenges around the world. With audiences unable to attend live performances and performers unable to rehearse together it seems as though for once, the show couldn’t go on. However, one thing that goes hand-in-hand with an arts-based education is creative problem solving. From Broadway performers to major symphony orchestras, organizations have found innovative ways to keep creating performances and presenting them to audiences. Toledo School for the Arts is no different.
Spring semester at TSA usually comes with several large-scale performances. Three dance shows at the Valentine Theater. Plays at the Toledo Repertoire’s 10th Street Theater. Not to mention the capstone event for the school, Kaleidoscope a showcase of all the arts the school has to offer. A year-end celebration of the high-level performances and visual arts the students at TSA offer.
This spring, COVID-19 had other plans. The teachers and students at Toledo School for the Arts, though, have shown themselves ready to prove that the show can and MUST go on. Though there won’t be audiences packing the seats at the Valentine Theatre or The Toledo Rep; actors, dancers, musicians, and fashion designers are preparing performances to share with their audiences in a new way. Along the way, opportunities to build new skills and explore different aspects of the artistic crafts have been revealed.
Fashion Design students are hard at work creating their first fashion magazine. This publication will be available late spring through the school store. Each designer has been working on their own at home and occasionally at school on individual looks to fit into the categories of formal wear, casual wear, androgynous wear, and cosplay. “Although it has been a very different type of school year, it’s been encouraging to see the students continuing to work from home. We have had a blast getting together for socially distanced photo shoots downtown, at Wildwood Metropark, and at the Toledo Club. We have future plans for shoots at The Toledo Museum of Art and The Toledo Zoo.” While a typical TSA fashion show includes a runway and fast backstage changes, the school’s program has turned towards a photo and print presentation, giving students a chance to explore a different facet of this broad and exciting industry.
The spring play, William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” has been adapted into TSA’s first feature length movie under the direction of Juliette Quinlan and Megan Aherne. TSA’s Video Production teacher, Aherne, is filming each of the thirteen actors individually against a green screen for everyone’s safety, then editing them to magically appear together in each scene. “We have all stepped out of our comfort zones to try something challenging and new. It’s great to have the reciprocal support and trust to be able to do so,” said Aherne of the process. Filming provides an opportunity for students to explore the differences between acting for the stage and the screen. A release date for the film has not been set.
Music students at TSA are also preparing to release virtual concerts. Recording or filming music presents its own challenges and is a critical skill for success in the music world. “A recording lives a long time, where a performance is over in a second,” explains Artistic Director David Saygers. “There’s a lot of pressure to play without errors when you make a recording, because it’s expensive and time-consuming to correct. And mistakes live there in that recording. Audiences are prepared to hear perfect musical recordings, so the pressure can be pretty high.” Learning how to manage that pressure is one of the opportunities the coronavirus has presented to young musicians.
Three of TSA’s mainstage dance offerings will also be offered in a digital format. Dance instructors Alison Reny, Miranda Calhoun, and Amanda Nye are all working diligently to safely video tape performances that will be offered to the public.
Alison Reny’s Limitless Dance Company partnered with BCAN (Buckeye Cable Arts Network) to recreate a full-length dance show on video. Some of the filming took place at The Ohio Theater, with dancers performing in socially distanced groupings. BCAN filmed the performances and will edit the show to be presented on both ArtsWatch (TSA’s streaming service) and on BCAN. In addition, many numbers were videotaped by the school in locations around the Toledo area, highlighting the interaction of the choreography and the setting. Look for Limitless the first week of March.
The Graffiti Project is an all hip hop show at TSA, choreographed and produced by K. Miranda Calhoun. As the hip hop art becomes more prominent to the world, music artists are showcasing the ever-changing style in their music videos. To match this growing art of music videos, each class has prepared dances through zoom to showcase the evolution of hip hop and the growth of music in video production to one of the most iconic artists, Beyoncé. K. Miranda Calhoun says, “I am very excited and proud of the dedication and energy each student has shown in class during these tough times. Although we are all excited to get back in to the classroom, we are more excited to showcase the product we have created that was all learned through video meets on Zoom! Bringing hip hop live in different forms is always a great way to continue the growth of the style.” The videos will be released to view in late March.
Perhaps the biggest undertaking for the semester is the school’s year-end show piece, Kaleidoscope, KSCOPE-21. This year the production will be completely virtual with all performances filmed in advance of the May release date. Studios creating high-quality presentations reflect on the importance of direct-to-video during this unusual year, without disappointing audiences who are used to the remarkable quality of the annual show. Artistic Director David Saygers says “We all consume most of our arts entertainment through film or video, so we’re embracing the opportunity to explore how what we do and teach in the school interacts with the real world. That’s always the goal of arts education at TSA, so the goal seems obvious.”
Classes will work with audio engineers and video production crews (sometimes students themselves) in the production of Kaleidoscope. “That will be a new experience for some of the kids,” explains Saygers. There will also be some adjustment as students begin to rehearse together in person late in March. “We’re really looking forward to bringing our students together, and creating some art!”
Exercising artistic skills in overcoming challenges has been a theme for TSA in this year of quarantines and infections. “Making the most of every situation is the key to success in the arts” says Saygers, “and it’s a lesson we’ve worked on all year!”
These virtual performances as well as others will be available on the school’s streaming service, ArtsWatch. You can watch upcoming shows as well as past favorites by visiting https://ts4arts.pivotshare.com/