By Jill Fox
After the curtains close, Coral Springs Charter School theater students aren’t quite finished.
Every spring, the final project for the advanced theater class is a murder mystery dinner theater. Organized as a fundraiser, funds raised help with the purchasing rights to musicals, sets, and other annual expenses.
The class is divided into groups to write prospective scripts, and a traditional vote determines which one will be developed into a show.
When the collaborative process began in early March, sophomores Avril Rosano, Conner Cox, Madison Mulvey, and Gabby Varona, junior Marley Ackerman, and seniors Giuliana Sarcone and Sebastian Garcia formed a group and wrote a murder mystery revolving around a dating show.
Their script was selected as the winner, however, shortly after, came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, for obvious reasons, the dinner show couldn’t happen,” said Mulvey.
But this group of teens felt the show must go on and wanted to showcase their hard work. So they spent weeks rewriting the script and adapting it to a miniseries format that could be watched from home.
Mulvey said the original concept was a dating show, but after quarantine began, it evolved into an online dating show.
The students planned to release the miniseries on some type of digital platform, and Mrs. Butler, a theater and film teacher who also advises the drama club, supported the idea, giving them advice along the way.
“The project was completely student-run, directed, written and performed, but Mrs. Butler was available throughout the whole process, helping us if we needed anything,” said Sarcone, who is also the drama club president.
The seven Coral Springs Charter School students developed the five-part miniseries from start to finish.
They wrote monologues for each character, and actors sent in their video auditions. After selecting the cast, everyone recorded their lines at home, and Ackerman put the pieces together.
Ackerman, a self-taught editor, who first started making films before fifth grade, takes journalism class and broadcasts for the school news.
“It was really satisfying watching the whole thing come together,” she said.
The miniseries, set in quarantine, was written during a ten-hour zoom call. According to Mulvey, the purpose of continuing with the project was to try to bring some light into the COVID-19 situation, to have a sense of normalcy, and try to share that with the rest of the school.
The students were ultimately happy with the result and felt they were able to reach a larger audience through their online platform. The dinner theater event is typically attended by 70 people, whereas more than 400 have already streamed the videos.
Sarcone said Mrs. Butler appreciated being able to connect with the students again, and even shared the miniseries on social media.
“She has college friends who are theater teachers now, and they were sharing it with their students to help motivate them to work on their projects during these weird times– It was great how she used her network to try to support us,” Sarcone said.
As for the fundraising component, the students aren’t worried. Trip cancellations, among other things, have decreased their costs for the year, and they feel they can make it up.
Garcia, whose community involvement has him heading to AmeriCorps after graduation, said he enjoyed how the experience brought them much closer together.
“After a long day of doing school work, it was nice to have something to look forward to.”
The entire murder mystery miniseries titled “Livestream Lovers” can be found on the Coral Springs Drama Club’s Instagram account.
Sarcone, who will be attending Florida State University in the fall to study business marketing and theater, said, as a senior, it was nice to have a final performance and some closure.
“It’s been a great way to end my high school experience, and I’m really thankful for it.”
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.
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