“Virtual Life” is available for viewing at https://www.wevideo.com/view/1898804458
Freedom High School
Social distancing, zoom calls, and buggy internet are just a few things people have had to get used to over the past few months, but Fairfax High School makes light of these relatable pandemic problems with their show, Virtual Life.
Originally a class project, Virtual Life is a collection of four scenes written by students for the virtual format. Each scene tackles everyday situations we have seen during our time at home. From breakout rooms, to tutoring, to promposals, and even a plot to murder a husband, students took on their first digital production with a talented team of student actors, editors, and script writers in order to create funny yet relatable scenes.
Wealthily Widowed, while starkly different from the other scenes, was filled with outlandish comedy and clever twists. Caroline Fines and Tori Miller played their devilishly snarky and murderous widows with the utmost refined mannerisms. Their backhanded quips were made all the more hilarious in contrast with Miller’s bursts of anger, that made it apparent how useful the mute button actually is.
Breakup in the Breakout Room, was scarily accurate. Sarah Zakreski’s character, Sam, played perfectly off Emma Dulop’s Tina, as the laid-back baseball kid and teacher’s pet tried to awkwardly avoid Ivy, played by Grace Roti, and Leena, played by Madeleine Tyler. Roti and Tyler’s chemistry and convincing performance illustrated the fragility of high school romance, and alongside Zakreski and Dulop’s texting and Gretchen Hoffman’s occasional appearance as Ms. Fallangee, the scene captured a real-life snippet of how school breakout rooms function.
The Tutor, balanced both authenticity and absurdity all in one. Mikhail Goldenberg, as Mr. Jay, did a wonderful job of showing off the subtleties in online learning. A quick hum to himself before the call and his wholesome mannerisms had him come across as an understanding, helpful teacher. Conversely, subtle would be the last word used to describe Zack, played by Stone Hernandez, who loudly and proudly showcased issues students face with online tutoring. Family members, switching rooms, and leaving because of awkwardness, are just some of the things Hernandez did which added a layer of realism to his otherwise wacky performance.
Zoomposal, had the strongest relationships of all scenes. Trey as John Jennings, the self-absorbed best friend was almost too convincing and annoyed audiences with his lack of self-awareness and constant crunching. It was a sigh of relief when he was finally kicked off the call. William Choi, as Bryce, had the audience rooting for him the entire time. His shy awkwardness combined with his interactions with Jennings made it all the more satisfying when he and Grace Howsare’s character, Lacy, finally had a moment of understanding. The cute scene, while short, ended the show with a coming of age moment in an unconventional setting, but still kept a traditional happy ending that left viewers satisfied.
The true highlight of Virtual Life was the students who wrote the production. Students like Tori Miller and Stone Hernandez helped introduce clever and ludicrous bits of comedy while editors, like Madeline Taylor, made the scenes performance ready. Without a stage, writing their own set of scenes made especially for an online format showcased another one of the skills the talented students at Fairfax High School possess. They set an example for just how involved students can be in creating their own productions.
Fairfax High School’s Virtual Life, while packed full of comedy, also portrayed an accurate representation of our lives today, and was a reminder that even if being at home feels like being alone, the experience is universal.
West Springfield High School
Both a misfortune and an opportunity, this new way everyone approaches their day-to-day lives has undoubtedly been a new experience for everyone. Fairfax High School has been making the most of it; Virtual Life brought together a collection of four student-written scenes, all of which followed events that took place over video-calling platforms.
Within the current virtual world, there are specific situations that many people regularly experience, such as work meetings and class lectures. Despite the seemingly limited subject choices for virtual settings, each scene was incredibly unique, and each story had differently intriguing elements. The collection began with “Wealthily Widowed,” a scene written by Tori Miller and Caroline Fines that was based around two widows as they discussed the loss of their husbands. The second scene, “Breakup in a Breakout Room” by Madeleine Tyler, conveyed four different members of a group project within a breakout room and how a particularly rocky couple unfolded. Then was “The Tutor” by Mikhail Goldenberg and Stone Hernandez, following a tutor trying to help his student facing numerous difficulties during their video chat. The final scene of the event was “Zoomposal” by Grace Howsare and Grace Lane, which told the story of a boy attempting to ask his crush to prom over Zoom with some interference from his best friend.
The characters’ relationships and conflicts were unique to one another while presenting elements of video calls that people can relate to. The relatability of the characters freezing up, disconnecting, working in breakout rooms, etc. are such relatable topics for students and adults alike. The audience could connect these scenes to their own lives, and that boosts the level of empathy they had for the characters. Various instances could be noted during “The Tutor” when Zack (Stone Hernandez) would constantly be interrupted by family members, have connection issues, and sneakily present himself as though he was paying attention. “Breakup in a Breakout Room” also featured situations that students would definitely recognize; as order began to unravel within the group, Ms. Fallangee (Gretchen Hoffman) would occasionally pop-in to check on their group project’s progress. The teacher’s untimely entry and the students’ surprise presented a comedically accurate representation of countless students’ breakout room experiences. With the additions from Sam (Sarah Zakreski), the comically unobliging groupmate added the frustration of working with uncooperative peers to their group project.
Rather than attempting to work around the technological constraints of a Zoom call, these scenes used these new tools to their advantage. In “Wealthily Widowed,” for instance, there was a moment in which Jacquelyn (Tori Miller) muted herself to address Alexander (Alex Miller); after hearing news that did not appeal to Jacquelyn, she began throwing things towards the door in a fit, creating an intriguing experience for the audience. The silence in a moment of tantrum was a contrast that added to Jacquelyn’s apparent feigned composure. In addition, “Zoomposal” exhibited clever use of the “hang-up” feature; as Bryce (William Choi) began to get fed-up with Trey’s (John Jennings) constant interruptions while trying to ask out Lacey (Grace Howsare), Bryce “kicked” Trey out of the call. As one cannot exactly kick someone out of a scene as easily on-stage, this was a great utilization of the options that video-calling platforms had to offer.
This era in the world has certainly brought on many challenges, including searching for a sense of normalcy. However, communities like Fairfax High School have proven that they are not giving up. Virtual Life has set-the-scene for many high school students and theatre-lovers alike that there are still possibilities to create amazing collaborative projects, even from a computer screen.