Spooktacular event bolsters Dunbar’s theatre program
Rainy weather did not dampen spirits as theatre students at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School hosted a colorful Spooktacular event with trick-or-treating, concessions, games, and dancing. The parking-lot fundraiser aimed to help cover losses from last spring’s comedy “Spamalot,” which Dunbar canceled as the COVID-19 surge forced schools to close their doors.
“This was a great way for kids and families to celebrate Halloween in a socially distanced and masked way,” said musical theatre director Brooke Jackson. “Normally we do a fall play and winter musical, which wasn’t in the cards. We tried to do something fun and safe and have something to look forward to. It’s a great thing for mental health – to feel connected and feel creative. Right now, they’re just a little bit draggy because they miss being there (at school). This gave them a lot of hope and excitement.”
Five classes planned Spooktacular, including choreography for two dances: “Calling All the Monsters” and the zombie “Thriller.” Students had posted the dances on Instagram in advance and invited anyone who learned the moves to join in the dusk performance. The audience, meanwhile, mostly stayed in their cars, though a few people popped their hatch or sat in lawn chairs for a tailgating feel. Earlier, attendees stopped by distanced tables stocked with candy treats (bagged for safety) and played a few rounds of spooky Bingo as the teachers emceed via microphone.
The highlight of the evening, the unveiling of the students’ play “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon,” did fall victim to the elements. Instead of sharing the experience on a large screen outdoors, attendees received a code to watch the performance online later. “It’s basically been a giant NTI project for our classes. That’s what we’ve been doing in Zoom every day,” said Jackson, who described it as “a mash-up of fairy tales with a dark twist.”
Theatre teacher Alicia Henning agreed, adding, “It’s a collection of fairy tales – some famous and some not so famous – given a very dark and weird spin.” The playwright adapted the show for Zoom, and Dunbar’s advanced theatre classes rehearsed online. “They feed off each other’s energy in person, so having to find that on their own was definitely a challenge,” said Henning, who did a screen capture, filmed the four scenes, and pieced it all together.
Henning also credited students for gathering props and costumes from around the house, like pens for magic wands and hoodies for capes. “It reflects the time we’re in,” she said. “It’s not the best play they’ve ever done, but they’ll never forget it!”
(Posted Oct. 29, 2020)