{span}Annie (Audrey Mezser) meets Sandy while the rest of the cast looks on.{/span}

BROCKWAY – Back before the COVID-19 school shutdown, the Brockway Drama Club was hard at work on a production of “Annie.”

Then schools closed, and the play seemed like a lost opportunity, until Director Justin Salada came up with a modern solution to a modern problem — the internet.

“These kids put a few months of solid work into their parts, building and painting sets, and to be cut short a week away from performance was devastating,” Salada said. “They wanted to finish it.”

Salada said that the process of filming and editing was “a tough nut to crack.” He had the students perform on the stage and film them, but the equipment had limits, so they had to pause and save to make sure they got everything. The filming was tough, but the editing was even worse. Coronavirus restrictions made the whole process more difficult.

“The editing of the video took three or four times longer than filming it,” Salada said. “We had limited time constraints, restrictions on the number of students on stage, distancing rules, actors trying to learn new parts in a day or less time. These were just a few of the many problems we had to work through to accomplish this.”

Because the play was supposed to happen in April and filming commenced in July, that meant that cast members’ availability changed, causing the Drama Club to quickly recast.

“We had to replace from within the cast we already had,” Salada said. “Taking other students and giving them more parts or reassigning who was doing what was a moment to moment venture for us.”

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The new format also meant sacrifices in production. Yes, Salada could include close-ups and do multiple takes to get a shot right, but the music had a more rigid restriction.

“We had to sacrifice using the talented live musicians we typically use due to limits on numbers in attendance,” Salada said. “This led us to use pre-recorded rehearsal and performance tracks from Music Theater International, our licensing company. Without live musicians, there is no dynamic communication between the music and the actor, and it makes the performance feel more scripted. One pro is that they can practice from anywhere, and they know that music will always be performed the same way no matter what.”

With the finished product cut together, Salada said that he could see that his students did not have the usual on-stage jitters he was used to seeing.

“From my perspective, the actors are more relaxed and able to be themselves on stage,” he said. “I believe this is due to not having a physical audience in front of them, it takes the stress of messing up down a notch. However, they all maintain they would prefer a live audience.”

The show will be available as a paid on-demand link on Aug. 17 at

Brockway’s production of “Annie” stars Audrey Mezser as Annie and Liam Webster as Oliver Warbucks. It is co-directed by Melissa Newcome and choreographed by Sydney Manno and Amanda Murphy.

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