By Sarah Giusti of Falls Church High School
COVID-19 has had an indescribable impact on all our lives, not least those who engage in theater and the performing arts. Many shows were put on hold, then canceled, as the gravity of quarantine sunk in. Now, with the beginning of a new school year, theater programs must get creative.
Is it even possible to put on a show when the actors are not allowed to leave their homes? Tuscarora High School rose to the challenge, creating a show that felt like a window into the characters’ lives, an effect that can only be achieved when a show is performed virtually, making online theater unique and engaging.
“Homefront” is a devised theater piece, written by the students themselves, about the lives of military families. Each scene was separated by a narrator, who would give statistics and provide a smooth transition to the next monologue. Being a member of the military is not only hard for those who are serving, but it affects everyone around them, and the students made sure to represent a diverse group, including family members of all ages and relations, and even a scene from the perspective of a dog. In this way, the cast was able to balance the frustrations and sadness of a parent being overseas with happier, lighthearted moments of reuniting and of serving our country.
Acting to cameras instead of performing before a live audience is a difficult feat, but the cast of Homefront was able to keep good pacing and energy. Particularly memorable was a scene between Dustin (Patrick Hensley) and Dustin’s dad (Riley Steinkirchner), who were talking through a Zoom call when Dustin confronted his father about not calling and missing important milestones in his life because his father was deployed. Hensley was able to convey his bitterness and quiet anger at his father through the emotion in his voice. Both scene partners worked well together, pausing at appropriate times to make the scene more dramatic as they worked through Dustin’s built up emotions.
Another impressive scene was performed by Jaidan Braddock, who portrayed a young child waiting for her father to come home. Actors will often act as if young children are babies, but Braddock was able to accurately portray the thoughts of a young kid without accentuating the baby talk. As Braddock was musing about what she would talk about with her father when he returned, she said, “I’ll tell him about all the people who came to my birthday party. I wonder how many people came to his birthday party.” This line is an excellent example of the way children talk. She was aware that her father was away from home, but ignorant to what he was doing while deployed. The costumes in this scene, done by designer Bailey Vigil, also served to characterize Braddock as a child through the use of a cute outfit style that adults would not normally wear. By making this costume choice, Vigil drew the audience into the scene, increasing its believability and emphasizing Braddock’s performance.
Homefront tugged at the heartstrings as the audience experienced loss, heartbreak, and unbridled joy through snippets of the actors’ worlds and thoughts. Tuscarora successfully provided a wider perspective of what it was like to know someone in the military, asking the question: Is serving your country worth the sacrifice? There is not a concise answer, but “Homefront” encourages thought-provoking conversation on the topic from which everyone could benefit.
The Tuscarora video, “Homefront,” will be shown as a Veterans Affairs COVID-19 fundraiser on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at 7:00 pm.
Get tickets here.
[This review is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]