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BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11

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An Interview With the Cast and Crew

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11

It is a yearly tradition for the Children's Theatre of Charleston (CTOC) to put on a Winter themed show and this year, despite the pandemic, is no different.

While current guidelines prohibit live audiences and restrict gathering, CTOC has worked diligently to continue their yearly tradition and bring Christmas Shorts - a hilarious comedy show featuring skits, parodies, and musical numbers - to audiences in a way that is both safe and unique by incorporating masks into the production and filming the show for viewers to watch.

Show: Christmas Shorts
Streamed Performance Dates:

Friday, December 11 & 18

Saturday, December 12 & 19

Sunday, December 20

Tickets: $10 student, $15 adult, or $30 for a family.

Tickets will be available to purchase the dates of the show at gumroad.com/ctoc
Note: This show will disappear for "purchase" from the Gumroad store after the dates listed, so make sure to "purchase" your rental Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Once you've purchased the rental you will have 30 days to start watching the show, and 72 hours to complete it after starting it.
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1471548836368304/ or http://www.ctoc.org/index-php

I spoke with Director Jennifer Anderson, Musical Director Grant Jacobs, and Malia Saar - one of the children who raps, acts, and plays ukulele in the show - about the hardships that stem from creating a production during a pandemic, their favorite moments, and their thoughts on the show.

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"I've been fortunate enough to have been involved with four previous productions at the Alban Arts Center that were filmed, so I was familiar with the process before I began this production," explained Jennifer Anderson. "The last three I worked on were all live-streamed so we were doing six performances, as is typical, and the audience was watching it happen live."

Christmas Shorts will be handled a bit differently. The show was performed and filmed, but viewers will only be watching a pre-recorded stream of the show, rather than a live performance. This allowed the theatre to provide a safe space for actors and staff as scenes could be divided up to keep the number of people present in a given area at any given time to a minimum.

While safety is the primary concern, Anderson does admit that filming differs greatly from live theatre.

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"The main challenge with not having a live audience - for me - is the lack of response," explained Anderson. "Live theatre is a give and take between the company and the audience. As an actor you get energy from the audience and respond to their laughter, their 'oohs' and 'ahhs', and their applause. Obviously, you don't get that with this type of production."

"Tough situations always bring out the best in people, this is no different," stated Musical Director Grant Jacobs. "There have certainly been challenges - vowel shaping to tune notes with singers in masks is difficult for instance - but we've managed. While our thoughts are with the families of those impacted by this devastating virus, those of us with the production team at CTOC looked at this as a unique opportunity to try something outside-the-box, with clever filming and using small sketches and limited cast to keep things creative, but also safe."

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Grant Jacobs
Photo Credit: Natasha Allen

"We feel like we've made the best of a tough situation to give these students an opportunity to do something creative they wouldn't have had the chance to otherwise, and it's an experience I don't think they'll forget anytime soon," said Jacobs. "Ultimately, if the goal of working with young people is to help give them the tools necessary to overcome challenging situations - then COVID has certainly provided us ample opportunities to do just that."

"We've taken great lengths to make sure that everyone stays safe," explained Jacobs. "I actually caught COVID early on in the process, so those rehearsals were run via video-chat and through sending out the initial music until I was on the mend, which fortunately didn't take long."

"Masks are a must in our rehearsals though, along with ample distancing. Singing auditions were held with the recommended CDC distance, and we've cut the band back to only non-wind playing instruments," said Jacobs. "This whole situation has shed light on the importance of responsible behavior on the part of the individual, and there's been no push-back from either our staff or the young actors. Everyone understands the inconveniences, but everyone also has done their part to move this thing forward. Flexibility is the name of the game in 2020."

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Malia Saar

Malia Saar, one of the talented young actresses in Christmas Shorts, stated that the precautions, while different, didn't make the show any less fun to create.

"We just couldn't have as much interaction as we would normally have at theater, so we managed by rehearsing in small groups," explained Saar. "It was still a lot of fun and the masks that were made for us were really cool."

Christmas Shorts is unique as it is a Christmas skit show which had musical numbers, performed by the children with the accompaniment of a backing band, added in.

"I wanted to add music because I just felt like the show needed it. I thought it would make a richer, more well rounded show," explained Anderson. "There's so much great Christmas music out there."

"We were fortunate enough to get Grant Jacobs on board early on as Musical Director," stated Anderson. "He had some wonderful ideas about the music that I just knew I had to incorporate into the production."

While Jacobs has long been a part of Charleston's music scene, this is his first time serving as Musical Director.

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"When I moved back to WV in 2012 I knew that I wanted to dive deep into the state's music scene. There's an immense amount of creative energy and talent here, and I knew that those were the type of people I wanted to surround myself with," explained Jacobs.

"My experience with CTOC has been phenomenal from start to finish on this show, and the best part is that I get to see the NEXT wave of creative energy and talent on the rise. Ultimately, we all just want to work with talented and driven people, and these young people come ready to hold up their end of the deal each and every rehearsal; it makes for not only an enjoyable experience but one that is fulfilling for me. I couldn't have landed in a better spot than right here in Charleston working with this group."

The idea of incorporating the children into the band was embraced by all involved.

"The children were great, they rose to the challenges of doing a production with social distancing and masks and filming wonderfully," explained Anderson. "They were cooperative, energetic, and never complained."

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"The kids are playing violin, guitar, ukulele, piano, and singing in this show," stated Jacobs. "Initially when presented with the idea of arranging music for this show, I knew that because of the sketch/small scene aspect of the show it would allow for different musical opportunities - interludes, song breaks, etc. -to let the kids take the reins. It's not originally a musical, so I've either written or arranged all the music to showcase the talents of our young actors."

"We're including a lot of traditional Christmas tunes: 'O Come Emmanuel', 'Angels We Have Heard on High', etc. but in different styles; punk rock 'Deck the Halls' comes to mind," explained Jacobs. "The first time the kids sang 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' to a rockin' guitar riff and the drums kicked, their faces lit up, and I knew we had something special."

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

For Saar, having the ability to act, rap, and play the ukulele in this production was exciting.

"I love to act and sing, but it's been great to bring in something else I love; the ukulele," said Saar. "This is my third year playing the ukulele. I learned how to play in my 6th grade music class, but I have taught myself a lot since then. I enjoy learning new chords and I've written a few songs myself. It's been really fun playing it for others in this production."

"I can't say enough about this cast and these kids. They all brought their A-Game," added Anderson. "I'm constantly amazed at their talents."

While Saar enjoyed playing the ukulele for Christmas Shorts, she also enjoyed the other skits she performed in.

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"(I have) two favorite scenes. Getting to rap was extremely fun and something completely different from other parts I've played," explained Saar. "But, I absolutely loved my costume for Summer. It was fun and interesting getting the wig over all of my hair! I have to give thanks to Kit our costume designer for making it work."

Anderson, Jacobs, and Saar are all three excited to share Christmas Shorts with audiences.

"This was a great experience, and it is going to be a great show," said Anderson. "The production staff is wonderfully creative and talented. I loved working with each of them."

"I appreciate that Natasha (Assistant Director) and Jennifer did their best to make this experience fun and engaging, even though we couldn't really engage like normal," stated Saar. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to participate in theatre even during these weird times of COVID. I'm thankful for everyone at CTOC who works hard so that we can still be creative and put on shows. I hope that we can continue to bring a little joy to others who are not able to go to shows or events right now."

BWW Interview: CHRISTMAS SHORTS By the Children's Theatre Of Charleston Begins Streaming, December 11
Photo Credit: LeeAnne Rheinlander

"It's really just been a blessing, and those who know me know that I do NOT use that word very often... but it really has," explained Jacobs. "When I stopped touring with my band a couple years ago I knew I wanted to dive into a different area of music in this community, one that could give back to this town that has graciously adopted me and all my antics. I've been lucky over nearly 20 years playing music to play bass for a lot of musicals and some opera, but never lead direct music for one. I'm really grateful to CTOC for taking a flier on me, and to have had the chance to work with such an impactful and positive organization."

"This year has been absolutely raucous, and it's been clear that everyone involved is committed to making sure we can all have a great Christmas to at least put a positive end to it. I'm so thankful to Jen, our director, for bringing me on board; and Natasha, our assistant director, who has absolutely busted her tail keeping everything on track amidst changing state guidelines and rehearsal schedules and everything like that. Also just very thankful for my musician friends for diving into this show with me and learning all the music, they're the best. Finally just thankful for the students, they're the engine that makes this thing go."


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