Help Desk: Drama department flexes acting muscles with virtual play

Rehearsals+don%27t+look+the+same%2C+but+the+passion+for+theater+has+never+been+stronger.

Mackenzie Berry

Rehearsals don’t look the same, but the passion for theater has never been stronger.

The short URL of the present article is: https://lhslance.org/05smq

“Unless you’re a booth techie, don’t touch your mic pack!” 

“You should never be in the catwalks messing with lighting unless you have been given specific permission.”

“You have to hang up your costume before you can eat dinner!” 

“Circle up in five!” “Thank you five!” 

These phrases echo in the  D-Wing during any theatrical production, but they are changing, along with our current circumstances. Actors participating in the fall play are finding themselves creating their own costumes, changing their own mic settings, fixing their own lights, and feeding themselves tech week dinners. 

While the FCPS Board of Education is having continued discussion on whether or not indoor performing arts groups will be allowed to gather in person, the drama department persists through their virtual fall play, Help Desk by Don Zolidis of Playscripts, Inc. 

Students auditioned in September with 2-3 minute monologues, and received their roles within a few days. Since then, they have been meeting every day after school hours via Google Meet to rehearse, and work towards their finished product. 

“When you call the help desk, you’re looking for a solution–but your problems might just be beginning. Whether you’re getting shamed about your inability to log in, giving your credit card information to a scammer, or having serious conversations with a clown, customer service calls spiral into absurdity for the customers and employees alike in this hilarious comedy,” said Zolidis. 

This show has been written by Zolidis specifically for actors in quarantine to perform in a virtual format, with duet scenes as opposed to large groups. 

I love that this show gives LHS Drama a way to flex and create during these less-than-ideal circumstances.”

— Mr. Daniel Lake

“I love that this show gives LHS Drama a way to flex and create during these less-than-ideal circumstances,” said Co-Director Daniel Lake. “Working with a team of creative and inspired people is a rush that’s hard to match, and rather than allow the shutdown to dampen our spirits, the students involved have brought all their energy to making this show extraordinary. I couldn’t be more proud of the whole group.”

“I found the script to be very funny,” said director and drama department advisor Angela Smithhisler. “Especially in today’s post-COVID world with many industries working from home, the idea of Help Desk calls gone hilariously wrong seems contemporary and relevant.”

While the show has been made compatible to perform virtually, there are of course many road bumps along the way. 

“Technology issues have been the biggest problem so far,” said Smithhisler. “Spotty WiFi, lagging video, dropped calls. That’s definitely complicated keeping up a rhythm in rehearsal.”

One student doing their best to tend to these problems is virtual stage manager Kevin Aquino. While there may be no set to build, lights to adjust, or mics to set, there is still much to be accomplished to put together a virtual show. 

“While the directors give acting advice, I feel I should be advising actors on what props they will be holding, and how they will be moving throughout the screen,” said Aquino. “My goal is to have all props, costumes, and set pieces put together. I also am responsible for any specific needs such as camera angles, and microphone and camera quality.”

Actors are also given a tremendous amount of feedback from hardworking student director Ricky Guariglia. This is Ricky’s first time directing a show. 

“Being a director has actually been significantly different than I thought it would be.” Said Guariglia, “It’s been a lot more time consuming and rather than looking at a handful of characters of just a few scenes, I now have to look at the show as a whole.”

Guariglia is also in the cast, playing the comedic relief, Boffo the Clown. 

He said, “My character, without spoiling too much about the show, is one of the more unexpected characters in the show, that has a lot of unexpected situations, and I really like that.” 

Aside from our drama department veterans, many fresh faces are making their way to the (virtual) stage.

“I have been enjoying my experience in the show a lot more than I thought I would considering it isn’t in person,” Said Vixx Martinez, class of 2024. “Going into this community is as a freshman is pleasant because of how accepting everyone is. The environment is fun and comfortable and I’m excited to continue with everyone in the program.”

“As a newcomer to theatre, I can say everyone in the show has been quite kind and helpful,” said Izabella Manning, class of 2023. “I think the community is a great balance of light-hearted fun, and serious dedication to acting.”

The show is going to be released to the public via  www.showtix4u.com for a ticket fee, so that anybody can watch from the comfort of their own home. The benefit of this, is that anyone can watch the show from anywhere in the world. Anyone who may not make it to the show had it been in person, now has the opportunity to see Linganore drama students in action. 

Many may ask, however, “Why should I pay to watch a show from my computer?”

Don’t miss the fall play! (Mackenzie Berry)

“There are many reasons!” said Smithhisler. “It keeps our drama department going because ticket sales are largely how we are able to produce shows every year. It’s also just like paying for a video streaming service for videos: it’s not quite the same as seeing it live on stage, but lots of hours of work and rehearsal go into creating a virtual show too.”

“People should see this show specifically because it is virtual! One of my prescient students told me back in March that, in terms that she had been taught in her history classes, we have become primary historical sources for this pandemic and its massive impact on our country. Right now, we are participating in documenting a period that later generations will learn about (and complain about, and get bored reading about),” said Lake. “Also, it’s funny. It’s a piece of giddy, quirky entertainment made by people we know and love, and we could all use some of that right now.”

“People should see the show because it’s really, really funny,” said Guariglia. “I’ve probably read through every scene about eight times now and there are still times during rehearsal when I’m laughing out loud. Our cast brings an already funny show to a whole new level.” 

Don’t miss Linganore’s production of Help Desk on November 20 and 21. Visit showtix4u.com and search, “Linganore” for more details.