Jaguar Players at Aprende Middle School

Some of the Jaguar Players at Aprende Middle School in Chandler discussed the script in a Zoom meeting.

It’s been a tough year for student thespians and their teacher-directors with pandemic protocols making it all impossible to hold live performances.

But that didn’t stop Marisa Brady, theatre teacher and the Jaguar Players director at Aprende Middle School, or her 45 student actors and crew members.

And starting May 21, people will be able to see the streamed version of their production, “So…This Happened,” – which just happens to be about the year that they and millions of other students have endured.

With the help of theater students from  Corona del Sol High School in creating the script, the Aprende students worked on the production since August.

Filming started in the fall and unlike many kids’ productions over the past year that relied on Zoom, much of the Aprende production took place on the school stage.

“From mid-October through November, we were using our stage and following all of the district’s precautions,” she said. “So everyone was more ‘We were 6 feet apart from each other.’

“The good thing is that we could use our big stage and just put two people and put two cameras and not worry about them being close to each other and we filmed about half of our scenes that way.”

Then Kyrene School Districts, like many, closed campuses for the rest of the year.

 That forced the Jaguars to film a few scenes virtually until they could resume on stage in February.

Masks were not a problem because, Brady said, “the actual characters would have been wearing masks” in the scenes.

As the school year began in August, Brady set about engaging the students. She asked them to write the events that events “were funny, were heartbreaking and everything in between.

“The kids brainstormed a whole bunch of ideas and we narrowed those ideas down and tried to make sure that we were balancing it all because we didn’t want to make fun of anyone, especially while we were in the heart of the pandemic in August. 

“We didn’t want to like make fun and belittle people who you know who have lost family members. We wanted to kind of tell the story in a truthful way while poking fun at some but also respecting everybody’s stories.”

Brady, who is in her eighth year at Kyrene, said the format is like the TV show “Saturday Night Live” in that there’s a cold open followed by a series of self-contained skits that reflect the horrors and some of the humorous incidents that occurred during the COVID-19 global nightmare.

Brady said she’s proud of the kids – especially since eighth graders will have some good memories of their last year in the Jaguars while sixth graders didn’t have to wait till the next school year to start working on their acting chops.

The streaming service is no rinky dink platform but one that many theatrical companies are using. And, just like renting a movie or some performance, people buy a ticket that’s good for as many viewings as they want in a 48-hour period. It will be available May 21-28 and tickets are $20.


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