All the world’s the stage when you perform. Students in the Summer Theatre program at Homewood-Flossmoor High School got to prove that — from their own homes.
“Peace, Love and Cupcakes” is a fun musical with a theme of accepting others. The show is staged by 18 junior high and high school students who, under the guidance of teacher Jill Bonavia-Galligani, spent their afternoons Monday through Thursday over six weeks studying their roles and learning their singing parts.
But this summer their stage wasn’t in H-F’s Mall Auditorium. To put on the production, each student performed from home for filmmaker Anne Colton, who agreed to work on this project. She then created a production that will be shown to the students and their families.
Bonavia-Galligani said the school has not been given the rights from the licensing company that would allow H-F to show the play to the community through social media.
Cast members are Caroline Bivens, Violet Bivens, Avery Calhoun, Natalie Elfner, Anly Flores, Rachel Griggs, Alyson Harris, Naila Hudson, Faith Kenshol, Emma Sophia Leak, Flannery Marak, Anaya Mootry, Kamryn Nelson, Logan Nelson, Raina Randle, Jimmy Rich, Casey Siengo, Lily Trinidad.
“Peace, Love and Cupcakes” is based on a children’s book by Rick Hip-Flores. Bonavia-Galligani describes it as: “A very sweet show about a girl who transfers to a school. She’s into monster movies and nobody thinks that’s cool, and then she’s trying to decide what kind of group to join. She creates this club ‘Peace, Love and Cupcakes’ and the girls make cupcakes and start distributing them. It’s all about peace and love,” the teacher explained.
“The message is all about accepting people for their differences. I just think that’s such an important message. I think it’s a message we need in this world, especially right now, but really always,” Bonavia-Galligani said.
She conducted the class like she would have before the COVID-19 pandemic. She held auditions that required the students to present a monologue and sing a song.
Once casting was done, she worked with the actors virtually using Google Meet. The show takes place in a junior high in current day, so the troupe wore their own clothes. For a few scenes, they wore T-shirts Bonavia-Galligani provided to represent clubs or teams.
For the music portion, Bonavia-Galligani used the score provided by the production company. It was the help from three music professionals that helped make the show, she said. H-F choral program teacher Steve Sifner, part-time H-F instructor Jenna Odom who is a professional opera singer, and H-F alumna Heather Olson who is a junior high music teacher, worked with the Summer Theatre cast, she said.
“It is quite an undertaking and I’m so thankful to those colleagues who did this for me and the kids because you really couldn’t do it without a big staff — the music especially.
“When you’re doing a virtual production like this, you can never, ever teach them as a group,” so it depended on individual tutoring on every song, she said. Each student recorded their own part.
“The only time we’re hearing them together is when Anne puts it all together for us. The kids never could sing together.”
“It’s been a really cool, interesting process. I learned so much about so many things but the best part was being able to connect with the kids. Even though it was a Google Meet, which is so different from meeting in person, a lot of these kids I’d never met before, and I feel like I got to know them and they all feel like it was worth it,” she said.
The District 233 school board decided the 2020-21 school year will open with remote learning. Bonavia-Galligani is trying to stick with the calendar that’s been used before. She is getting ready for a fall student production.
“I feel like I’m so equipped to teach theater remotely now,” she said. “Especially because if we go remote the students will need to come to the Google meetings which will be so important. I just feel I’m so ready to teach remotely. I feel like it was a positive experience, and the kids did too.”