Balancing Act – Putting on Safe Shows

By Alexander Paster-Zwiebach ’22

A shot of the cast of FSSA’s Hairspray, which was shown online only in the spring of 2020.

For the last year and a half, performances at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) have been totally online. Going into the 2021-2022 school year, however, the restrictions designed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are beginning to loosen. Still, information on any productions coming up this year has been scarce, and the question on everyone’s mind is, will there ever be live audiences this year?

An audience is certainly desirable. It isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary, of course. With the advancements made in the past year in incorporating technology with performance, it is easier than ever to film a show and broadcast it online.

“But it wouldn’t have the same impact as if they were on stage and had several hundred people in the audience,” says Mr. Kronenberg, director of FSSA’s Instrumental Studio’s Wind Ensemble. “The energy is completely different.”

According to Mr. Kronenberg, a live performance is the most impactful way to see a show. It doesn’t make all that much sense, he thinks, to put on a concert with nobody watching.

“I do think that the performances at the beginning of the year are going to be smaller venue,” he adds. Smaller productions may make it easier for live audiences to be allowed, and they require less maintenance, so they can be done anywhere.

“We’ve created a mobile setup,” agrees Patrick Thompson, Jr., FSSA alumni, and the school’s new acting production manager. “We can run sound, and then somewhat of a lighting setup depending on the space.”

However, there are still safety concerns to consider before a live audience can be confirmed. In order to do so, the school must be reasonably sure that the event will be safe for both attendees and performers. This includes finding a space to perform.

Part of Thompson’s tasks for the year are to resolve those concerns. To this end, he’s considering other places where performances can happen, hence the mobile setup.

New information sent by the DOE confirms that those two shows have been approved for the concert hall. But it’s still clear that other locations are being considered.

Of course, there is one show for which the concert hall is practically a requirement — the school’s musical, which will be Rent this year. The logistics of putting on a musical are already enough without having to find a way to do it in a place without the proper facilities.

“Our hope right now is that we’ll have at least a half capacity audience,” Mr. Cacciola-Price, FSSA drama teacher and musical theater director said. According to him, the musicals help to engage the community, as well as raise money for the school.

“The musical was, for many years, kind of our homecoming,” he adds. It’s a time, he says when the school can come together to celebrate the year. And to make up for lost time from last year’s musical, he’s extending the number of performances to ten, from the usual eight.

“You know,” Mr. Kronenberg mentions, “we’ve been the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, we’ve always put ourselves out there, to be heard.” Even with a reduced capacity audience, shows will come back, and the work will pay off.

“I guess my biggest thing,” Thompson concludes, “is, be patient with the system, be patient with the process of getting back into a normal, or a new normal.We’re making great strides.”

Update: The DOE has since loosened performance restrictions for indoor shows. Check back with FSSA to find out the latest, as such, the school’s Vocal Cabaret and Instrumental Cabaret performances will be safely held indoors.

Tickets are now on sale for the first two performances of the year which will take place in the FSSA Tony Bennett Concert Hall. 

FSSA Vocal Cabaret
Friday, November 5th At 6pm & 8pm 
Click Here To Purchase Tickets

FSSA Instrumental Cabaret
Friday, November 12th At 6pm & 8pm
Click Here To Purchase Tickets

All tickets are $20 and can only be purchased online. Ticket sales are the main way we fund raise at the school to support our arts programs and the creative work of our amazing students. 

Due to limited capacity seating we only have 200 tickets on sale for each performance.

FSSA is also committed as part of its equity initiatives to ensure that any student or family in financial need receives discounted or no cost tickets to our performances.

All DOE health and safety regulations for indoor gatherings will be followed for all school performances and events as listed below. 
-All Adult guests must show proof of vaccination
-All guests must fill out the required DOE Health Screening
-All guests must wear a face mask covering the mouth and nose at all times while in the building and during the performance
-Limited capacity seating to allow for 3 feet of social distancing between families/groups who are sitting together
-Disinfecting of Concert Hall including each seat between performances
-Filtration of air in the Concert Hall before, during and after performances

Now that indoor performances have been approved, FSSA will announce the dates of our Dance, Drama, Art and film cabarets very soon.