Windsor

Arts-centric Walkerville Collegiate hoping to resume plays as outdoor live performances

Walkerville Collegiate Institute has long been known for its unique focus on the arts, but the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing teachers to find a new way to bring the school's plays to audiences across Windsor-Essex.

'We kept rehearsing online with the hope that we'd be able to perform sometime in the fall'

Jeff Marontate, arts program leader at Walkerville Collegiate Institute, says he's spent the summer running virtual rehearsals with students involved in the school's next play. Marontate is seen here holding one of the masks that would be used in the school's rendition of The Frogs, an ancient Greek play. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Walkerville Collegiate Institute has long been known for its unique focus on the arts, but the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing teachers to find a new way to bring the school's plays to audiences across Windsor-Essex.

The school typically runs three plays every year, with April 2020 originally expected to feature an adaptation of the ancient Greek comedy The Frogs. Though rehearsals started in January, the pandemic stopped the show from taking place.

However, that doesn't mean the show has been cancelled altogether. The school's program leader said he's been keeping up with student cast members on a weekly basis throughout the entirety of the pandemic.

"We kept rehearsing online with the hope that we'd be able to perform sometime in the fall," said Jeff Marontate. "We're still hoping for that."

With pandemic restrictions keeping theatre creators from raising the curtain, one option being considered is to host the play as an outdoor live performance. Next season's plays — namely, The Addams Family — are already in the planning stages.

Walkerville Collegiate will be running some of its classes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"We haven't really looked at the idea of indoor performances right now. It's not feasible. So instead, what we're hoping for is outdoor performances with recorded music," said Marontate, adding audience members would bring their own chairs to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

"I've just been stressing to the kids that if they're prepared when we get back in the fall, we should be fine to get the play put on. But we're just waiting for the word to come down that we can actually do it."

When Walkerville students enter the school this Thursday, they can expect to see many of the changes seen at other schools in the region — arrows limiting foot traffic to one direction on each side of hallways, spaced-out desks, hand sanitizer stations and the creation of an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The music room has been cleared of its instruments, as drama students take over the space to conduct their classes there. Music students will be moved to a larger room in the basement where they will be seated six feet apart from one another.

School principal Theresa Williams says she's hoping students can participate in outdoor music classes with their instruments once given the go-ahead by the public board. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Similarly to other music classrooms across Windsor-Essex, there will be a greater emphasis on theory-based learning.

"At this point, the guidelines are pretty clear about no vocal singing and no playing of instruments," said Walkerville principal Theresa Williams.

"The practice pieces ... would be done virtually — and potentially outdoors when we have clearance to be able to do it in that fashion."

Dance classes will remain in their current room since it's large enough to accommodate physical distancing between students. Some physical education classes will be held outside, Williams added, so expect to see more children outside during class hours.

About the Author

Sanjay Maru is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email him at sanjay.maru@cbc.ca.

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