Children and teens from TRYPS Children's Theatre have gotten creative this pandemic, finding ways to write and perform original new theater productions without anyone meeting in person.
Fulton residents might be familiar with TRYPS due to their past performances at the Brick District Playhouse. But for the past few months, TRYPS has gone virtual.
"We joined Zoom nation," TRYPS Executive Artistic Director Jill Womack said.
Two stories put together this summer are currently airing, with new installments posted to the TRYPS YouTube channel each week in the style of an old-fashioned radio drama.
Both stories were written by the young participants and feature references to Columbia and Mid-Missouri locations like Devil's Icebox and Shakespeare's Pizza. "A Recipe for Murder" by the TRYPS Kidz Troupe tells the tale of a murder mystery, while "Picture the Crime" by the Teen Troupe focuses on a school picture day gone wrong.
"It's just the safest way to stay together," Womack said. "Singing, dancing and talking are some of the three worst ways to spread (the virus). This sure is a great way to live our mission and keep everyone safe while also providing that normalcy and fun."
As each story progresses, boxes showing participants acting from home pop on and off the screen, with backgrounds changing to match to location of each scene.
"I asked the teachers (Monday), how are you going to top this because the stuff they're doing is so awesome," Womack said.
Another three productions began this week, each with a different visual style. "Escape Room" will be in the found footage style of "The Blair Witch Project," "Wonderland" will have a fairy tale theme and "Superheroes Unite!" will have a comic book feel.
In addition to following along with the productions as they air online, interested students will be able to sign up for another round of Zoom shows this winter.
"We're just going to stay on Zoom where it's safe," Womack said.
Preparing for an entirely-virtual production is a bit different than the typical theater production, with participants interacting only on screen and putting together costumes at home.
"I think we'll keep including this because then they can keep their costumes," Womack said.
But the challenges of the pandemic have come with several silver linings.
"It's a different acting style, but I think it's a very valuable acting style," Womack said.
For example, the virtual format makes it easier for students to watch themselves while they practice.
"There's been a lot of really wonderful growth with students because they can connect director's notes with what they see on screen," Womack said.
This new era of Zoom theater has inspired a deeper dive into original content than the group has done in the past.
"This is the most extensive we have ever gone and it is wonderful," she said.
Because participants aren't required to meet in-person, people form all over can work together. Womack said some Missouri participants have been able to invite their friends and family members from other states to join in.
Similarly, one girl who had recently moved away from the area was able to continue participating with her friends still in Missouri.
"One kid told me, 'I look forward to this every day because I have something really fun to do,'" Womack said. "It brings a sense of fun and play and normalcy, and I think that's really important right now."
Sign-ups are still open for a number of classes coming up in October and November, including a Harry Potter-themed role playing class for grades 2-5, a dance class for grades 3-12, a Peter Pan-themed original skit for grades 2-6, a Rapunzel-themed show for grades K-6, a creative drama class for ages 3-5 and a teen acting class for grades 5-12 that will focus on dialects.