Modern Theater for a Modern World


As one of the most abnormal years in recent history comes to a close, many aspects of our day to day lives remain changed.  Face masks are worn everywhere, eating out at restaurants has become both a difficult and dangerous activity, and the entertainment industry we have heavily relied on through this period of quarantine and isolation has been drastically affected.  TV shows and movie releases have been put on halt, concerts and performances are postponed, and Broadway shows are cancelled through spring of next year.  Despite all of these setbacks, many, including Ladue’s own theater program, have persisted and found ways to create, connect, and continue to entertain.  Earlier this semester, the theater program put on a zoom performance of Unmasked, consisting of individual pieces from students that related to the ongoing pandemic.  

“It was definitely a little more difficult.” Said junior Juana Derdoy, “But I also think that it was a little more rewarding because you can have individual little rehearsals and feedback to work on and develop it on your own.”

The program’s upcoming performance, Working the Musical, reflects modern America and modern issues.  A rotating cast of characters will each come on stage for a short period of time to share and sing about their different jobs and unique stories, all about working in America.  The plan was to begin rehearsals in-person when the high school went back after the Thanksgiving break, but when the district decided to keep the high school virtual for the health and safety of its students, they were forced to alter their plans.  Now they plan for an in-person performance with masks and safety precautions to be recorded and uploaded to Youtube, but for now they continue to rehearse over zoom.

“The vocal aspect is a little bit tougher over zoom because sometimes not everything is so clear.” Said Derdoy, “Especially when you have to sing with other people, it’s an interesting format but I think we’ve adapted pretty well for the circumstances.” 

As theater has adapted many of the physical aspects of their performances during the pandemic and turmoil of this past year, they have also adapted the stories they tell.  Theater, from its earliest performances to modern times was meant to connect with audiences, highlight issues, and create social discourse.  So what better of a time to create art and entertainment that relates to our modern world, especially from a young person’s perspective?

“I think it is really important that it reflects our modern world.” Said Derdoy, “Because it has affected everyone so much that it would be kind of weird if we didn’t talk about it, and we didn’t frame everything around it, because our lives are like that right now.”