Little Shop of (COVID) Horrors

Omicron variant takes center stage and forces theater program to take five. 

The Omicron variant outbreak in Northern Virginia caused hospitalizations to skyrocket right before the holidays, and the  student body felt the effects. Arlington Public Schools (APS) scrambled to combat the outbreak, in turn canceling all after-school activities for two weeks. This included clubs, sport teams and the theater program. The theater program was especially affected by the prevention of rehearsals. 

English and Theater teacher Mr. Danny Issa and the rest of the supervisors at the theater  department decided that it would be best if the musical’s performance dates were pushed back into early March.

“There’s just the general anxiety and wellbeing of the cast and everybody in there. I know I’m worried, a bunch of my actors have expressed concern, we need to proceed safely. It was a hard decision,” Mr. Issa said.  “There’s never going to be a decision that makes everybody 100 percent happy.” 

“Little Shop of Horrors”  is the first major production that the school has put on in person for almost two years. For those participating, the pressure was on to create the perfect show. 

“Outside of [the musical] being super fun, I think there’s a really important message in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” Mr. Issa said. “[Not to] give too much away, but this is really a play about what we’re willing to sacrifice in order to have our way. I think that’s kind of an important message to sort of communicate now. Let’s evaluate how our individual choices reflect the larger community around us all the time.” 

The theme of the musical ties hand-in-hand with current events that everyone has to deal with; how people’s individual choices are affecting the mass population is very relevant with the state of our world right now. How can COVID  procedures, even damaging or difficult ones, help people in risk right now? The prevention of after-school activities was damaging to many plans, but it was for safety. To abide by the regulations, cast and crew had to stop production entirely. This gave many flashbacks to our virtual past school year. 

“[I was an] assistant stage manager last [year],” Julia Beverley, senior and stage manager, said. “I didn’t do much because it was online, so I just attended some Zoom calls and wrote down notes.” 

 “Hopefully by pushing back things will slow down and you know, that curve will flatten out and you will feel a lot less anxious about getting up on stage,”  Mr. Issa said.

The show’s “Tech Week” was originally going to be the same week as Midterms. Tech week is a theater staple in all productions, it is basically cramming for a test, or the intense practice right before finals, but for theater. 

“I have never done tech week, like [an] official one. We did some sort of tech week for “Olympia”, and that was pretty rough,” sophomore Mateo Hope said. 

The cast and crew understood the decision. It was more important to get the musical performance-ready and focus on the little details that make a production rather than rush it and try to cram weeks of work together. 

“I think it’s crazy to think that we would have performed this like a week ago, so I think the extra time is gonna be really nice. I had an old theater teacher who always said that the show is never complete, and we always need more time,” Hope said.

“I’d say I’m affected and I’m sad about [the musical] being pushed back,” Beverley said. “[However], I’m also like, we really need time to perfect the show and make sure everything is going smoothly. So it’s kind of like a good thing, but also to maintain people’s safety, or sanity.”

To  show our theater program support, come see “ shop of horrors”, performing at the school on the new dates, March 10, 11, and 12.