The COVID-19 pandemic has heavily affected the performing arts program at Camas High School. Choir and drama both rely heavily on in-person school for rehearsals and performances. The pandemic has caused both departments to work around the challenges and restrictions of remote learning. However, with the recent transition to hybrid learning, choir and drama have their eyes set on accomplishing several goals for the rest of the school year.
CHS’s drama program relies on in-person classes to organize and rehearse its two major productions each year. The drama department is super excited to have students back in the classroom with the hybrid schedule, after a full year of operating remotely.
CHS drama teacher Sean Kelly said, “I am most excited to see my students, I have deeply missed my minions, as I call them, and look forward to seeing at least their eyes and smile in person. Out of hybrid learning we hope to gain as much connection as we can accomplish. One of the most devastating aspects of the pandemic has been the further isolation of an already isolated society. Theatre is about empathy, connection, community, storytelling, and sharing our experiences. I very much hope that we’re able to do this better going forward so that we can see one another with compassion.”
When all the drama classes were online, Kelly had to find new material that students could do from home. They did a voice acting unit where they read a short story and recorded it, and the most recent unit was puppetry. Students were partnered up and created a puppet from scratch and a skit to go along with it. They then performed it over Zoom for the class.
The drama department usually holds a theatre night which is their final for the class. It is a chance for students to perform for the other classes and support one another in their work. CHS drama hopes that it can create something similar for the end of the year.
Over the first-semester, CHS choir teacher Ethan Chessin led students through music production using digital programs. The project was fun, engaging, and overall a good learning experience for students wanting to learn about music production. However, the project was not what many students look forward to in choir. The most important thing for a good majority of students was being able to come together, have fun, and make art.
Chessin said, “What I am looking forward to is social engagement, I love music, but a lot of why I like music is that it allows us to be together, and we just for a year have not been together. I am nervous about us being nine feet apart and forgetting how to talk to each other, but I am also so excited about what that can be, and I think that for someone like me who feels that connecting with people isn’t second nature, doing something like this together, making something like this together, being musical together, is going to be that social glue that we have been missing all year, that we’ve been looking for all year.”
With the ability to sing outside at the undercover basketball courts of Lacamas Heights Elementary, choir students are regaining that time of being and singing together that was missed with remote learning.
Since there will not be any concerts in the near future, the goal is not to rehearse and prepare to be concert-ready. The main goal shared by Chessin and his students is to be together.
“It has always been about being together in song, and so now that’s just even more clear. I don’t care that we probably won’t have a concert with this music. I just want to do it because music is a way of living,” Chessin said.
Prior to the short pause of hybrid learning announced on March 10th, nearly all SVE students were safely masked and present for singing. Both choir and drama are most excited to see each other and rebuild that sense of community they had before Covid sent everyone home.
Camasonian journalists Isabelle Domenech and Chase Fossen contributed to this article.