When COVID-19 forced a spring semester cancellation of a Denison production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Singer’s Theatre Director Belinda Andrews-Smith put on her thinking cap. She wanted to make sure she could stage the Tony award-winning production safely and give her students the experience of a lifetime.

The fact that the fall sports schedule had been canceled by the NCAC presented Andrews-Smith with a brand-new possibility — to hold the production on the athletics field in front of bleachers. As soon as she got the OK, she began adding football themes into the show, and pulling football and soccer equipment onto the props list.

Rehearsing and hosting an outdoor performance meant relying on Mother Nature, who wasn’t always at her sunniest. “Dealing with outside rehearsals in the heat, rain, cold, and wind had me longing for the comforts of our beautiful Eisner Center stage,” says Andrews-Smith.

“I was so worried that I’d try to sing and nothing would come out because my teeth were chattering so loudly,” says Jordan Zelvin ‘21, (Double major in Theatre and Education) who played Leaf Coneybear. “But the adrenaline of performing for an audience warmed me up.”

Performing during COVID-19

Wearing masks during rehearsals and performances pose their own sets of challenges, including learning each other’s facial cues during rehearsals. “The majority of the cast,” says Zelvin, “had worked together before and, knew what the bottom half of our faces looked like.” But this wasn’t the case for two first-year students in the cast.

“During one rehearsal, both of these students came from another activity and didn’t have time to eat so they sat at a safe distance from the rest of the group, took off their masks, and ate their dinner. The whole cast went CRAZY because this was the first time most of us had seen the bottom half of these students’ — and now our friends — faces,” she says.

About Singer’s Theatre Workshops:

Singer’s Theatre Workshop performers hail from a wide diversity of majors. Spelling Bee student majors included psychology, data analytics, history, English, educational studies, communication, and cinema. These multi-talented students come to Denison because they can study voice intensively and perform in award-winning musical productions, while they pursue academic goals that may be outside the performing arts. This is one reason many talented students choose Denison.

November 4, 2020