Twin Cities school uses creativity to put on safe fall theater production during pandemic

"The show must go on..." You know the saying, but it's awful hard to follow through on safely in the midst of a pandemic that has altered everyone's life.

But, for students at St. Thomas Academy and Visitation School in Mendota Heights, they found a way to make sure COVID-19 did not stop their fall theater production. It premiered Friday night in a much different form than ever before.

"It was difficult for all of us to imagine what doing a show like this would be like in a pandemic, because no one really knew," said senior Grace Richardson.

At this point in the year, the students are getting ready to go on stage. But this year, they're going home instead to be part of the audience.

"They get to see themselves, to watch themselves perform," said co-director Wendy Short-Hays. "When does an actor get to do that? So that’s what their experience will be tonight."

The play is called "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" -- an animal murder mystery that sets the plot in motion.

"But it ends up being you know more about how Christopher grows as a person," explained senior Noelle Wang.

But it was a pandemic that set the course of this production. The play was chosen because it would allow actors to remain distanced and for it to be staged basically the same way. The production was recorded on four cameras, knowing they couldn't bring in an audience.

"One thing that was kind of difficult about it is halfway through one of our camera operators had to quarantine for two weeks," said senior Laura Breyen.

It took longer to complete than normal because of the pandemic - but also because they were learning how to make a movie.

"I remember there was a couple times - Ethan and I - we had to redo a scene... I think the record was seven times we had to redo it," said Chris Peters.

"I have a lot of relatives that live outside the United States that typically wouldn’t be able to see the shows that I do," added Ethan Hiew.

The show will now stream for two weekends. It’s not the same as a live, in-person show, but in a lot ways it's better -- at least for one year.

"It was a show in COVID, of course, there are going to be challenges, but super cool," concluded stage manager Edie Weinstein. "I learned so much. I think I’ll be unpacking what I learned for a long time."

If you'd like to check out the show, you can click here for tickets.