Wauwatosa West Theater’s Fall Production During COVID-19

Eve Lazarski, Wauwatosa West Reporter

The Wauwatosa West Theatre Trojan Players submitted a recording of their one act play, All the King’s Women, to the Wisconsin High School Theater Festival. All the King’s Women focuses on the life of Elvis Presley through the eyes of 17 women, told through monologues and scenes. They will have a small live performance for family on December 11th.

The coronavirus forced the theatre to make significant adjustments to their fall production. The regularly scheduled fall musical was cancelled, the cast was reduced, masks and social distancing protocols established, and performing for an empty auditorium accepted.

“Even though this year is different, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just means that we’re approaching theater in a little bit of a different way,” said Wauwatosa West theater director Adam Steffan. “The enthusiasm from the students definitely hasn’t changed.”

There were many safety precautions, like wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent hand sanitizing. But staying apart also limits the chances for connection, socialization and bonding among a large and diverse cast of students.

“Historically, my favorite part has just been the big group of people and getting to be together and working together to put on a show. And that, in a sense, has stayed the same,” says Wauwatosa West senior Joseph Byrne. “But you really don’t interact as closely or in the same way as you have in the past.”

One of the main changes has been having two casts, one for each cohort and each with 13 people, around 22 in total. This allows the play to be socially distant but still let many people participate, though there are still people working with both casts. A challenge of this is that there are not as many rehearsals. Cohort A rehearses on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Cohort B on Thursdays and Fridays. Cohort A and B alternated rehearsal on Wednesdays.

“It’s been interesting trying to work with that, like if you lose two weeks of rehearsal and have very limited rehearsals already, that’s a pretty big dampener,” said Byrne, who is in both casts. “Rehearsals have also been much shorter because I don’t think any of us are used to having only a 40 minute production.”

While previously the Trojan Players would perform two large shows, mainly musicals, they’ve now scaled down to a 40 minute one act play, at least for the fall. The spring show has not been decided.

The tech crew has also changed. With a smaller play also comes a much smaller set. The set mainly consists of platforms, desks, and boxes, which is much simpler than the elaborate sets of the past. But despite the smaller set, there are still around 40 people in tech crew. In part because of the lack of things for tech crew to do this year, there have also been workshops for students to learn new skills.

Overall, the Trojan Players have made a production that has skillful acting, despite the small size and COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m so grateful that we’re still able to offer a theater experience and theater experiences this year to our students,” said Steffan. “I’ve been very impressed with the students and the families for navigating this new reality.”

Currently, All the King’s Women is moving through the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival’s one act competition.

The festival has three stages and gives feedback on the play. Recordings are submitted and then judged. For the next stage, schools re-record using the advice they received. It culminates in the Virtual State Theater Festival in early December.

While the Trojan Players can’t present the show normally, there will be a live performance for the family of students, on Friday, December 11th. Each student will be allowed to bring two family members, and attendance will be reviewed in advance. Cast A performs at 7 pm and cast B at 8 pm. Social distancing and mask wearing will be followed.

View more updates about watching the show on the Trojan Players website.