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'Clue' raises the bar of what a virtual production can be
'Clue' raises the bar of what a virtual production can be

Santa Catalina School theatre students took their video production skills to the next level with Clue, presented virtually on March 19.

The undertaking involved a 30-foot green screen floor, professional cinematography, meticulous editing, animation, and the marriage of in-person and virtual performances.

Seniors in the Rehearsal and Performance class chose Clue as their year-end play, originally intending for it to be performed live while meeting physical distancing requirements. When it was clear the play would be virtual, the show was expanded to include students outside of the class, and came to double as Santa Catalina Theatre Arts' spring production.

Based on the iconic 1985 Paramount movie, inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, Clue is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery. The tale begins at a remote mansion, where six mysterious guests—Miss Scarlet (Samantha Scattini '21), Professor Plum (Sophia Scott '21), Mrs. White (Bella Borgomini '21), Mr. Green (Meg Woolf '21), Mrs. Peacock (Auggie Davis '21), and Colonel Mustard (Maddie Mizgorski '21)—assemble with Wadsworth the butler (MK Barlow '21) for an unusual dinner party where their host winds up dead and they all become suspects.

The final product reflected the creativity, hard work, and dedication of everyone involved in making it. Though Zoom was used to great effect in the second half, the most impressive aspects of the show occurred in the first four scenes, which more closely resembled a movie. With a stable cohort of on-campus students, several characters could be recorded individually in person against the green screen, which added great visual depth. As the student editors, Bella and Cheryl Mendoza '21 (who also played Yvette the maid) cleverly spliced together each character—whether the actresses recorded in person or virtually—so that they moved among one another as if they were all together. Throughout the process, the students also had the opportunity to learn from professional cinematographer and editor Barry Stone. "These girls learned in four months what people go to film school for years to study," said Theatre Arts Department Chair Lara Wheeler Devlin '02.

A Santa Catalina School actor stands in front of green screen in the background and camera and monitor in the foreground

Other flourishes set Clue apart from the year's previous virtual show, such as the use of props and costumes. Among other special effects, tech members cut out each character and animated their movements across a Clue game board to mark the transition between rooms in the mansion.

Here's what co-director Samantha Scattini said about her experience:

"Even though this was not what any of us had originally envisioned for our Rehearsal and Performance class, working on Clue was not only so much fun but overall an amazing opportunity. Thanks to the amazing guidance of Mrs. Devlin, Mr. Barry Stone, [Technical Director] Ana Maximoff, and others, I learned skills from creative collaboration, scheduling, production management, navigating the casting process, how to make scene breakdowns, and so much more.

"On day one, our class decided to really focus on the 'spoofiness' of the show, which I think the Zooms and green screen allowed us to capitalize on. It was definitely a challenge to film individually and without a set, but Cheryl and Bella did a fantastic job of making our vision come to life. It is amazing to see the difference between live theatre and film, as it provided us more creative freedom with everything from Colonel Mustard's and the Chef's (Jenna Tarallo '22) impeccable reaction shots to tech's amazing animation work and special effects.

"The most rewarding part of the entire process was being able to watch Clue with my castmates and other seniors together (socially distanced, of course) on campus with an outdoor viewing party! As we sat with anticipation for the seniors' final high school production to begin, I was overwhelmed with emotion: excited to see our months of dedication come to fruition, proud to have taken on a new challenge as both an actress and co-director, and heartbroken knowing that this symbolized the beginning of the end. But most of all, I felt a sense of gratitude and contentment wash over me as I looked around to see something I used to take for granted—a supportive community of smiling faces experiencing the joy of theater together, the way it is meant to be shared."

See more images from the show on SmugMug.

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