Heroes are not always people who do spectacular deeds but are often simply everyday individuals who determine to take an opportunity to act and make a difference. Alex Ford, theatre director, and Riley Benedict, a senior student director at East Hamilton High, are two special people choosing to make a difference.
Hamilton County Schools honored Mr. Ford and Ms. Benedict with an I Am Hamilton shirt and recognized them as HCS Heroes for helping to transform the school’s spring production from a stage show to a video presentation. The school was planning to present the musical “Chicago” as a stage production last March when school was shut down because of the pandemic. Mr. Ford and his students went back to work and turned the stage presentation into a video.
“The cast and crew are wonderful people who blew me away every day at rehearsal with their talent and hard work,” said Jenni Rice, student director of Chicago and a 2020 graduate of East Hamilton. “The future of Chicago was uncertain when school was canceled for two weeks and then the rest of the semester, but we knew Mr. Ford would fight for us like he always does, so we did not give up hope.”
When it became clear the students would not perform the show live, they went to work recording Chicago, so the theatre production became a video presentation for release in August. The performers had to forget what they had learned about on-stage acting and learn how to translate the performance to video. The group took five Fridays during the summer to put on video as much of the show as possible, using special precautions for the safety of performers. The performers could not sing while the group was together, so the vocal performances were recorded in an isolated sound booth. The instruments and vocals were later mixed together to make the soundtrack for the performance. Unfortunately, there were casualties to the show due to limitations as the cast was reduced, and they had to omit two large performance numbers.
“I would like to thank Mr. Ford for making sure we got to do the show,” added Ms. Rice. “He could have called it quits, and he probably should have called it quits, but he didn’t for our sake.”
“We had just finished our second tech rehearsal when – as you know – everything changed,” said Mr. Ford. “It was a long summer but well worth the wait and the work.”
Ms. Benedict was the dance captain for the Chicago performance and has now moved up to become a student director as a senior.
Shows planned for this year at East Hamilton include Shakespeare’s Hamlet and an adaptation of King Lear called Game of Tiaras. The shows were selected because they could be performed outside to comply with limitations in effect due to COVID-19.