October 22, 2021

Start the Show

Homer’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ comes to life despite pandemic

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Aiden Allbright, 17, a senior at Homer High, third from left, among the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone” that will air in June. Allbright said he’s glad to be back on stage this year after COVID-19 played havoc with the 2020 drama schedule.

Liv Stockwin said choreographing “The Drowsy Chaperone” during a COVID-19 pandemic is a whole new animal.

“I have choreographed shows before. This one is difficult. Dancers have to be spaced out … It’s harder when you can’t do what you want to do,” said the 17-year-old.

“It’s the year of making it work,” said Cara K-B McLaughlin, director of the Homer High School musical in progress now.

Teens are learning the music, their lines, their dance moves for “The Drowsy Chaperone” — told from the perspective of a shut in man cheering himself up with favorite musical tunes.

Ryder Wynn, 16, the man in the chair/narrator, explained that what is happening on stage reflects what the man is experiencing in his mind.

“So far, it’s been going fine,” he said. “Obviously this is a bigger role than what I have usually been used to. This is the first time I’ve been in a secluded, one-section area,” he said of his post next to the stage.

Teens are masked and can’t sing on stage (they seem to whisper or lip sync their parts under their masks).

“The science says we can’t sing,” said Stockwin. “Only talk through things. You have to be 6 feet apart with masks for a show,” said the 17-year-old, who plays Janet, the bride.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Alexis Small, left, and Lilly Luety, play gangsters, disguised as pastry chefs, in “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Homer High School’s musical practice April 21.

Stockwin and Marin Sharer, 16, are charged with creating the choreography for the Homer High School musical.

And they are up to the task, McLaughlin indicated. The two are Cortland Performing Arts Institute dancers, under Cindy and Kevin Halpin, SUNY Cortland choreographers. And both teens have been involved with theater since the fourth grade.

“I’ve never choreographed before,” said Sharer. “It’s difficult getting my ideas into words, what I am trying to teach — out.”

“Blocking is so different,” said McLaughlin.

There is a kissing scene. Instead of doing that, actors will be behind a screen and will use light to mimic a shadow kiss. In another scene, the characters are supposed to spit at each other.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Cara K-B McLaughlin, director of Homer High’s “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

“I have them throw things at each other,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be super creative this year. They are working really hard. It’s just tricky.”

One by one, the teens will sing their parts in a special podcast room at Homer High.

“We have to go in and record separately,” said Sharer. “We have not started recording yet.”

McLaughlin will put all the voices together on tape. Then the kids will stage their scenes one by one, lip syncing their parts, filmed by McLaughlin’s husband, Andrew, a tech wizard.

The show will be released in June.

The kids say how, with what format, and on what platform, has not been worked out yet. People can find out the particulars on the district website.

Wynn said he learned from the spring’s show, the virtual “How to Survive Being in a Shakespeare Show,” to expect the unexpected.

Several kids are in quarantine and must remain at home. They are accessing the rehearsal by their laptops. A school laptop showed their little faces on the screen as they followed what’s happening on stage at an April 21 rehearsal. They were practicing at home.

Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Brandon Tyrrell, 18.

“It’s definitely not that easy,” said Kaylynn Borella, a ninth-grader in quarantine who is a dancer in the ensemble. She will return to school in May after the adults in her life are vaccinated safely. “It’s not too difficult,” she said. “I would rather be in person.”

“It’s definitely a learning curve,” said Leah Bouwens, a student who was quarantined just the day before. “I have to work at home. I will be back in school May 3,” she said.

But the show is worth it.

“This is such a positive thing,” said McLaughlin. “There are kids that have been checked out since March. They have come alive. It shows us we need the arts. They need that creative outlet. They need that (connection) … It’s amazing the transformation in some of these kids that were so done in March.”

“We only have two months to stage (the show), instead of three months,” said Stockwin.

“We record on weekends,” said Sharer. “We have to get one scene nailed down. Then record that.”

“Then to another part,” said Stockwin.

“This is my first high school lead. My first time choreographing. The first show I have ever taped. For everyone, it’s a lot more rehearsals than previous years,” said Sharer. “We have to do it outside of rehearsals because we don’t have as much rehearsal (time in school), said Stockwin.

Aiden Allbright, 17, a senior, is OK with that.

He’s playing Robert, the bridegroom in the show.

“It’s pretty fun. It’s really nice,” he said. “It’s a lot different than usual but I like that we are able to do it at all.”