The Show Must Go On

Cast and crew working around restrictions to bring “Little Women” to the Shaler Area stage Nov 20-21


“The show must go on.” We’ve all heard it before. This performing arts motto has encouraged stumbling actors to push through their lines and carried the stage crew through their mishaps. In the days of COVID-19, this saying has really come into question.

Play director Mrs. Anne Loudon doubted that the show would be able to go on, but thanks to the dedication of both her and several student leaders, the show, “Little Women”, will go on. The performances will be 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Loudon has had to adapt to the changes that have been forced on this year’s theatrical performances thanks to COVID-19 restrictions in order to produce Thomas Hischak’s “Little Women”.

Mrs. Loudon was inspired after seeing a version of “Little Women” performed by another school and she decided that she wanted to bring it to Shaler Area’s stage.

“A few years back, I saw North Allegheny do Little Women, and they did a version that was only the first act. At the end, the dad comes home from the civil war and everybody’s happy, so I had to research a lot of different options that told the full story in a manageable time frame,” she said.

Loudon explained the not-so-subtle difficulties that everyone involved has been enduring.

“It’s difficult wearing masks when you’re supposed to project your voice in rehearsal,” she said. “We had to adapt some of the more physical scenes, like the kissing scenes. Also, the biggest annoyance is that we can only have 25 humans in the auditorium at one time.”

In order for the over 25 person cast to conduct a full cast rehearsal, certain people have to be told that they can’t show up for rehearsal. Prior to full cast rehearsals, the cast had to perform in pods.

“We can integrate the pods, but we still have to keep it under 25,” Loudon said. “That’s not ideal, but it’s necessary. It’s not impossible, but it’s challenging.”

The cast rehearses a scene from “Little Women”

This restriction also takes a toll on the construction of the set. In order to maintain that threshold, a sign-up sheet is used to limit the number of people that show up.

The limited auditorium capacity also creates an additional issue: what about the viewing? How will there be an audience for the performance if only 25 people can be in the room at any given time?

Originally, it was thought that there would be no live audience so Loudon and Mrs. Mindy Thiel, the activities director for the high school, procured streaming rights from Dramatic Publishing in the spring in case a live audience was not an option.

“They have two options. We can do a live stream, or we can record it and people can purchase it,” Loudon said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet because we don’t know where society will be at that point. Right now, it looks like we’re going to be doing some kind of streaming. Everyday it changes.”

And change it did; while there are still streaming plans in place, a partial live viewing of the show is now in sight.

“The current guidelines allow a capacity of 126 people in the auditorium. There are approximately 50 cast and crew members in this year’s show which will allow each cast/crew member to purchase 2 tickets to each performance,” Thiel said. “In order to maintain social distancing, some rows and seats will be blocked off.”

All other spectators will be able to watch the performances via live streaming. Tickets for the live stream are $10 for an individual and $25 for a family and can be purchased online at

If worrying about the new realities in a pandemic wasn’t enough, Loudon has also taken on the play by herself. With this year’s absence of all other adults previously involved in the production (the assistant director, the stage manager, the costume designer, etc.), she admits that spending so many hours after school is trying. She enjoys the challenge, but finds controlling every aspect of the production is considerably difficult.

This year more than ever, she has been especially dependent on student leaders, who have been hard at work behind the scenes for many months putting in countless hours.

I have enjoyed being able to take more of a creative lead, but it has been difficult finding our footing without a lot of the adults. Thankfully, we have Mrs. Loudon who is doing an outstanding job at leading the group while allowing for student talents to shine through.

— Caitlin Fedorek

“I have put approximately 10 seasons of ‘Criminal Minds’ into this show, which is about 225 hours, not including the time spent at each rehearsal,” costume designer Alaina Donovan said. “But time doesn’t matter as much because I love it so much.”

Caitlin Fedorek and Erika Waldron, who have taken the shared role as stage manager and set designer for this year’s production, are finding both enjoyment and frustration in the lack of adult influence over the creative decisions.

“Being able to come up with an idea and see it being built has been one of the best experiences so far,” Waldron said.

“I have enjoyed being able to take more of a creative lead, but it has been difficult finding our footing without a lot of the adults,” Fedorek said. “Thankfully, we have Mrs. Loudon who is doing an outstanding job at leading the group while allowing for student talents to shine through.”

Loudon has been impressed with dedication and creativity of the student leaders.

“That is the most fulfilling part thus far,” Loudon said. “Seeing Alaina Donovan create these amazing costumes because she has the freedom to do so, and seeing Caitlin Fedorek and Erika Waldron design a set and be able to share their talent, since some students need that for their portfolios…I love being able to afford them that opportunity.”

Despite all of the challenges that come along with not only being the director of the play, but the only adult on board, Loudon loves working with kids in an extracurricular setting.

“I love being able to work with students outside of the classroom in an environment where they’re not being graded…that they can be themselves, be a little more relaxed, and truly explore their passion for something,” she said.

She says that she has faith in her cast, which is anxious to take the stage after the departure of a strong senior class from 2020.

“The kids now deserve their moment. They’re now getting it, and I think they’re happy for a fresh start and a new beginning,” Loudon said.

With all of the moving parts that have been working together, the performers are just “hungry” to work as a group and bring forth a great production.

“What’s amazing is that everyone takes on some kind of task and we all work together to make the show possible,” Fedorek said.