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Palmerton HS presenting virtual ‘Radium Girls’

Two weeks before Palmerton Area High School Drama Club’s production of “Big Fish” in 2020, extracurricular activities took a back seat to the COVID-19 pandemic. A little over a year later, students are set to return to the stage, and while a live audience will be missing, one thing that won’t be hard to spot is the club’s passion for performing.

“Radium Girls” will be available to stream for free Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. at https://bit.ly/2RWe4iP.

“We know that the families in our communities have had a year unlike any other and that a night of theater can offer a chance to get away from all the craziness we have been experiencing,” Palmerton Drama Club adviser Brent Harris said. “We hope that everyone takes advantage of the chance to stream the production and that they all enjoy a night at the theater, even if it’s from their own home.”

Palmerton rehearsed three days each week from January through April. All but six of those rehearsals were held online via Zoom meetings. When they finally did have our in-person rehearsals, students would sit spaced out and masked throughout the auditorium.

“Whenever we would start a new scene,” Harris said, “they would make their way to the stage and rehearse with masks and distanced blocking. The only time that the students were able to perform without masks was when we were actually filming on the final three days. This created some interesting moments as we usually discuss and work on facial expressions quite a bit, but we really didn’t see any of them until we were ready to record the production.”

While online rehearsals posed some challenges, Harris said, students did a great job logging on from home and working together to make the best of the situation. Stage crew also operated at a distance, meaning the students could not work on and use the set as it came together. But streaming the show meant students got to learn other skills.

“We worked to block each scene for the camera angle rather than the full audience as best as we could,” Harris said. “The stage crew students also worked to learn how to use the camera equipment as well as the editing software that was used to put the show together. I can’t thank Mr. (Brandyn) Miller and the stage crew students enough. Without them, this would have been impossible.”

Even after last year’s shutdown, the drama club worked hard to put on some type of production in 2020. Plans, however, were never able to come together.

“To finally get back on the stage over a year later has all of us incredibly excited,” Harris said. “It is a bit bittersweet. This year’s seniors, as well as those from last year, didn’t get the big musical production that they have been used to. And, most of this year’s work has been done online, so it feels very different. But I think we are all glad to be doing anything at this point.”

Having a show without a live audience, Harris said, has allowed students to dig a bit deeper into their characters. Opening night conversations usually revolve around the energy that gets passed back and forth between the audience and the performers on stage with casts encouraged to play their part “big” because of the physical distance between the stage and the seats.

“Getting ‘Radium Girls’ ready was an opportunity to dig into these characters and to play some moments a bit smaller, a bit more emotional, and a bit more grounded,” Harris said. “I think it was a change that we all learned from and that will most likely influence performances in the future.

People can also purchase CandyGrams on the streaming website to be sent to the cast and crew.

“A story like the one in ‘Radium Girls’ is incredibly important to tell,” Harris said. “These students have a tremendous amount of talent and to have the opportunity for them to put it on display is a huge step forward after the events of the past year.”

Palmerton Area Drama Club students rehearse for a production of “Radium Girls,” which will be available to stream for free on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Pictured, from left, are Hannah Serfass, Freyja Marks, Aliyah Snyder and Serenity Hamilton. LYNN SHUPP/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS