Local theater revisits ‘50s with drive-in

A van sits in front of a big screen in front of the back parking lot of United Local High School, where the Stage Left Players premiered their youth production, “Hey, Li’l Red, Sunday.” (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

LISBON – Mother Nature tried to dampen the Stage Left Players’ spirits, but plenty of people showed up Sunday to United Local High School in Hanoverton to watch the debut of the youth troupe’s latest production on the big screen.

Kandace Cleland, Stage Left artistic director, explained the kids’ premiere of ‘Hey, Li’l Red’ lit up the parking lot of the school complex thanks to a LED screen for seven hours this weekend.

The event had been rescheduled from last week due to rain.

Cleland explained that the production was mostly done via submitted video from cast members’ home due to the COVID pandemic. They auditioned their cast members completely through online submissions for this piece that she and musical director, Jodene Pilmer, authored many years ago.

After cast members were selected, their families videoed them against a green screen, singing to the musical selections. In the spirit of social distancing, rehearsals were conducted via Zoom, while muting the other voices.

Cleland co-authored the piece along with Pilmer, and the footage was compiled by Will Flannigan from his home in Arizona.

The project was all done remotely and pieced together, she added.

This was something unique that emerged from this pandemic that Cleland said that she would like to do again, as it introduced new faces to the case.

For example, Ariana Aldridge from West Branch made her debut with Stage Left Players something that wouldn’t have been necessarily possible with the remote participation. “It opens us up to a broader audience,” Cleland said.

Viewers enjoyed the final production at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., along with footage detailing how it came to life.

Around 40 cars, twice as many as had preregistered, attended the event, according to Cleland.

In between during those five hour blocks, viewers were able to enjoy the footage of their favorite in “Goldilocks in Bobby Socks,” “Saving Salina,” “Snap the Whip” or “Eureka!” Then at 8 p.m., junior and senior high school students were prepared to take the screen.

Mike’s Classic Catering and Events, whose owner himself is part of the Stage Left family, provided the food, which included everything from hot dogs and nachos to cotton candy and candy apples.

Vehicles bought passes to attend by the carload for $15, and those who couldn’t catch the show in person will be able to enjoy it via web access, she added.

Cleland explained that sometimes some great things come out of experiencing, talking about one of her favorite T-shirts, which reads, “That’s a horrible idea. What time?” and how it perfectly defines this approach.

“Our goal was to engage our creative kids with an outlet, and we successfully did that. I had always wanted to do some online productions,” she explained and this seemed to be the perfect time when everyone was homebound due to the pandemic.

For more information about Stage Left Players and donating to keep the Trinity Playhouse running, visit www.stageleftplayers.org.


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