by SAMANTHA ENGLAND - How the coronavirus has affected the cast of Shrek, as well as several other performing groups at WHS.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (April 4, 2020) - Rescheduled. Postponed indefinitely. Canceled. They’re the words almost every involved student at Westfield High School has heard at some point or another over the past two weeks, particularly those with upcoming performances. All students have been affected in some way by COVID-19 cancellations, but many have lost their one opportunity to showcase months of hard work. The cast of the upcoming “Shrek the Musical” was especially crushed on March 12 at around 7 p.m., when students and families received word that school would be cancelled until after spring break. This story was, in fact, originally meant to cover the spring musical--but Mother Nature had other plans. Due to further news of cancellations for the rest of the year, “Shrek” is now postponed indefinitely.
This has taken a toll on the cast, including Grace Welsh (10), who was supposed to perform as one of the Three Blind Mice and a Duloc Dancer.
“Even though I am very scared for the future of the show, I know our directors won’t stop at anything until this show is put on,” Welsh said.
While it is an undoubtedly difficult situation, there is some light in the darkness that can be seen as a result.
“We all miss each other so much,” Welsh said. “Not being together or working on the show has made it clear how much we love the show and each other. I feel everyone has grown so much closer.”
The very future of “Shrek” is up in the air, and while this causes much anxiety among the cast, it also means there’s still a chance to perform. For Winter Winds, the Indiana Percussion Association and Color Guard, March 12 marked their final performance.
This is especially painful for seniors like Alyssa Smith (12), who were supposed to compete in their final official season of band.
“Winter Winds is kind of a mix of fall marching band and winter guard into one really fun activity,” Smith said. “You get to play music and perform on a much more personal level than you do in the fall.”
It was an emotional night for all groups performing at the annual community night, especially within a program that was finally experiencing a winning season.
“We had never been in a winning situation before, and for me to experience that with people I’ve been marching with for years was beautiful,” Smith said. “This group of kids are the coolest people I’ve ever been around and I will miss them more than anything when I leave.”
There’s a significant theme of increased community among groups because of the corona cancellations, a sweet but painful factoid. Another group was not as publicly affected has only recently received their hardest hit--and that’s Speech and Debate National Qualifiers.
“After State was cancelled, we really had no idea what would happen with Nationals since it’s in the summer,” Elaine Quirke (11) said. “But when big events like the Indy 500 started getting postponed, it didn’t look good.”
There’s a lot riding on this competition, especially for the juniors and seniors with limited chances left to perform their speeches or write their cases for debate. There was even a team record of six national qualifiers this year.
However, just like the theatre and band students, speech and debaters have found a break in the clouds.
“Regardless of all this, I’ve learned that using my voice is one of the most important things to do, even if it doesn’t guarantee success,” Quirke said. “Listening to people and what they have to say is so incredibly important."
It’s ironic how a virus that’s meant to keep people apart has actually brought us closer together. In all the heartache of losing one’s final chance to sing, play, act, or speak, we’ve found each other and found our passions. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of life and take just another homework assignment or long rehearsal for granted, but these are the very things we now miss the most— especially for seniors who won’t get another shot.
“Appreciate every moment, man,” Tyler Jeffries (12) said. “The journey of high school can be amazing if you just stop, smell the flowers, and enjoy life for what it is! For the upperclassmen, we’re a part of history, and let’s hope to make the best of these times. I hope we start to have a more broad and positive outlook on our lives when this whole thing is done.”
A bold note from the author: I do not believe “Shrek” is over. But I don’t believe winter band programs are over either. Or speech and debate. Because if I know one thing about performers, it’s that they are stubbornly passionate. The show must go on, through blood, sweat, and tears. Lots of tears.
To my fellow “Shrek” castmates as well as everyone reading this, I really wish this story was about our spring musical. I wish I had beautiful pictures of us performing on stage in full costume. I wish this was mainly a promotion to increase our exposure. But since it’s not, I want it to be an ode to all of you, as well as every Winter Winds, Guard, Percussion and Speech and Debate member.
To everyone who has the courage and passion to perform anything, I have so much respect for you. I’m so sorry that you lost your performance. But this is our story, and I, for one, won’t let it be a tragedy.