Disappointment Sets In As ELPS Students Face Loss of Many Meaningful Events

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Saturday, March 14, 2020, 11:00 am
Amalia Medina

Above: Keila Chacon (center front) rehearsing with other members of the "Little Women" cast in a photo by Nate Hoffman

[REMINDER: The City of East Lansing is under a State of Emergency and you are encouraged to practice social distancing. Read more about the state of emergency.]

Eliza Elliott ran up to Brenna Naughton, out of breath, with her hands in the air.

“Brenna! Brenna! You got Jo!” Elliott yelled.

Naughton immediately ran to see for herself. And sure enough, she was listed as the actress playing Jo March. And right underneath, Elliott’s name was listed for the role of Amy March.

“I was pretty surprised,” Naughton, a junior at ELHS, said. “I really wasn’t expecting [to get the lead]. I was walking into school thinking I was fine with just being in ensemble, but I’m very excited that it did happen, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Naughton and Elliott’s roles were for East Lansing High School’s annual spring musical. This year, the selected musical was “Little Women.” Opening night was set to be March 20, and there were to be a total of seven shows. The cast and crew had been preparing since January, with daily practices and all-day rehearsals on the weekends.

But now it won’t be happening thanks to the coronavirus. On Thursday, practices were suspended until further notice, and the musical was put off indefinitely. The next day came the announcement that schools would be closed entirely through April 5.

While East Lansing High School students understand the decision to promote social distancing, that doesn’t take away the sting. With so many sports and other school-related events being cancelled or postponed, students are feeling confused and saddened. Much of what they thought would be happening in their lives now is either uncertain or on hold.

The cancellation of the musical is a good example of the letdown and learning disruptions happening from coronavirus management.

Above: Brenna Naughton at rehearsal in a photo by Nate Hoffman

Due to an unprecedented amount of talent at this year’s auditions, for the first time, the musical had been featuring understudies. That meant that each lead would be played by two people. The main cast was set to perform in five of the seven shows, while the understudies were set to perform in two of them. During practice, they have been alternating scenes and reading through the script together.

“It’s cool to have someone to talk about it with,” Elliott told ELi before the event suspensions occurred. “We’re both playing the same character, so we both have different ways of performing it, so it’s nice to get a different opinion on how someone else would do a scene, and I can think about that when I’m performing too.”

Both Naughton and Elliott felt inspired by “Little Women” due to the characters and the overall feminist themes in the story.

“I like that it’s about four sisters and their lives, and I like that Jo is a feminist,” Elliott said. “It’s cool because I really would love to be on Broadway, and her dream was to be a famous writer, and that’s what she got, so it’s really inspiring to see that if she can do it with writing, I can do it too. It promotes women, and I like that.”

Elliott felt a connection to her character, Amy, due to their similar experiences as the youngest sibling in their families. However, Naughton had a different experience.

“My character is very confident, and I’m not typically a confident person,” Naughton said, “but I feel like I’ve grown, and my confidence around other people has grown. I’ve tried to connect with my character on a personal level through reading the script and thinking of ways to say things like she would say them.”

Despite her initial troubles with adjusting to her character, Naughton said she was learning how to grow as a performer. She told ELi she was excited to show this new side to her on opening night.

“I get to put on a character that I’ve never done before,” Naughton said before the school-closing news broke. “My goal when I auditioned was to show that I could be a stronger character, and that I could be someone else, and so I get to prove to myself and others that I can be more confident and that I can put on that persona.”

The learning already achieved from the auditions and rehearsals will stay with the students. But this week, as they and others faced cancellations of artistic performances and athletic competitions — opportunities they may never have again — the disappointment at East Lansing High was palpable.

Reporter Amalia Medina is a graduate of ELi's Summer Youth Journalism Program and is a regular reporter for ELi.

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