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Priya Merchant sings a solo in her isolated recording bubble.

The students of the Wood River Valley have been left without most of their extracurricular activities this year, but Ketchum theater company The Spot made it its mission that 2020 wouldn’t be the year without the dramatic arts for local teens.

In a normal year, The Spot would be producing its Young Company show, a tuition-free mainstage musical featuring a cast of local high school students, performed free for the community. For all the adjectives one could comfortably apply to 2020, “normal” is not among them. Despite that, the local arts community has tirelessly sought out innovative solutions to keep performance alive throughout the year, and The Spot’s Young Company is no exception.

In lieu of a regular in-person performance (The Spot’s maximum capacity with social distancing is capped at eight), the theater company has put together an entirely virtual performance series showcasing the musical and dramatic talents of the valley’s young thespians.

The project was a major undertaking, with The Spot crew having to make on-the-fly adjustments with shifting COVID-19 restrictions, never sacrificing the health and safety of the students or shortchanging their artistic experiences.

Students began submitting virtual auditions in October. From there, The Spot divided actors into duets, each duo working with a director from the theater’s artistic team. The theater space was reorganized to promote distancing and rehearsals were staggered to limit attendance and provide the team time to disinfect all equipment between groups.

Music Director R.L. Rowsey and Technical Director Samuel Mollner had to make clever adjustments to their equipment as well, devising discrete plastic bubbles for recordings and coming up with other innovative solutions.

“In addition to these measures, actors and directors wore masks throughout the entirely of the process as well as in performance. The young actors have been flexible and adapted easily to this strange new restriction, having implemented it months ago in schools,” according to a statement from The Spot. “Losing half the face to the masks forced each director to really tell the stories with physicality and the movement of the camera. The challenge of performing in masks became more about ecstatic, specific, simple expression and storytelling.”

Designing lighting cues from a distance, directing photography, editing video and syncing audio are just a handful of the challenges The Spot team faced, but overcoming those, they have finally completed a unique Young Company season.

The virtual series will be available to stream for free (donations accepted) at spotsunvalley.com from Dec. 18-20.

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