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AHS theater presents livestream performance of 'CLUE'

During an agonizing time for the live performing arts, the Ashland High School theater department found a creative approach to producing a classic piece of whodunit entertainment.

This show is not what you’d expect, said actor Allie Poole.

AHS theater presents “CLUE” through Sunday, a stay-at-home comedy directed by Jonathan Stevens. The Friday and Saturday shows will occur virtually at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

All inspired by the mystery board game, the “CLUE” script was written by Sandy Rustin, based on the 1985 film and works by Jonathan Lynn, Hunter Foster, Eric Price and David Abbinati.

The AHS cast includes Poole, Evan Heintz, Brooklyn Williams, Mila Robertson, Evan Lucas, Sophia Jones, Jackson Shostrom, Secoya Joaquin, Alison Avery, Tana Tompkins, Ilaena Hepford, Flannery Lundgren, Chiara Gorman, Parker Greaves and Sophia DiMaggio.

“First and foremost, I’m just so glad that we’re doing anything at all and that we have the resources to be doing something,” Poole said. “Right now especially, the arts are really struggling to find ways to stay on their feet while this pandemic is going on.”

Live theater thrives on physical connection. But without dressing rooms to crowd, audiences to pack, or stage sets to build, the show must go on. Even if it means four hours locked into Zoom, Poole is thrilled to continue engaging with the performing arts — however possible.

About 20 people attend virtual weekly meetings of the AHS Drama Club — roughly the same crowd that would fill the Rose Studio for in-person meetings before the pandemic. Poole, Drama Club president, and her officers check in with their club members, play virtual games and share opportunities to be involved in the arts.

Leading up to the virtual opening night of “CLUE,” Poole said student actors received substantial support from technicians and producers, who connected them with necessary resources, but actors assumed more responsibility as far as costumes and prop pickups. Labeled baskets were left outside the school for actors to pick up during campus closure.

Poole attends rehearsals from her dining room. AHS provided each actor with a green screen, which hangs behind her dining room table. The family makes dinner quietly while she works in the evening — an arrangement likely to continue while she records college application auditions.

Performing through a virtual format influenced how Poole approached her character, Mrs. White. Typically, she calls on her entire body to develop a persona on stage. With this show, the audience sees her character only from the chest up. Exaggerated facial expressions and clear speech for the audio became paramount.

“For a virtual show, I think we did a really great job in making it as similar to a real life, on-stage production that we could,” Poole said.

Stage manager Sarah Daley found surprising similarities between in-person rehearsals of the past and virtual rehearsals of the pandemic era — she coordinates communication between actors and the director, writes rehearsal reports and keeps track of schedules. During the show, she calls more than 200 sound and light cues.

Daley said she is proud of how the crew leveraged a virtual format, using green screens, costumes, lights and props, to create a well-put-together show.

“For being a Zoom call, it actually looks like theater,” she said.

The murder mystery farce is performed entirely virtually, from tech cues to backgrounds, and produced through Open Broadcaster Software for livestreaming. Tickets can be purchased at broadwayondemand.com. On demand showings will be available after Nov. 24.

The “CLUE” design and technical team includes technical director Kristen Samek, lighting designer Bart Grady, costume designer Emily Ehrlich-Inget, video consultant Brian O’Connor, sound consultant Ben Cobb and producer Betsy Bishop. Lily Whittle serves as assistant stage manager.

Courtesy of Allie Poole Allie Poole rehearses for the Ashland High School performance of "CLUE."