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MASK, Minot State graduates put on virtual musical

Submitted Photo J’Kobe Wallace played the part of the drama teacher, thrilled his students were able to find a way to try save the drama department.

The Make a Scene Kids Theatre had to do something new this year and J’Kobe Wallace, the director of the musical, said it went well. In light of the pandemic and social distancing, the musical had to take place online.

Wallace had been out of state for a while, his theater tour coming to a close at the end of February. When he returned to Minot, he contacted Ali Auch to see how he could get involved with MASK to do an audition workshop. At the time, things were shutting down because of COVID-19. When Auch got ahold of the script for the virtual musical, she reached out to Wallace and asked him if he would be interested in directing it.

Wallace met with Auch on April 13 to see how they wanted to do things, then contacted the parents of the children who were interested and set up times for them to meet to discuss the play and the music through Zoom and email. He met with the actors one-on-one to find the optimal place and props that would work best for their parts.

“The Show Must Go Online: A Virtual Children’s Musical” was put together as a sort of linear compilation of videos the kids did at home and sent to Wallace, who played the part of the school’s drama teacher.

The muscial is about a drama club who found out from its director its play was canceled and wouldn’t be able to perform “Brushes with Greatness: The Dental Hygiene Musical.” In response to not being able to hold an in-person play, they put it online for others to view.

Each character had to record their ideas in their homes and post them for the other characters to see and bounce ideas back and forth about how to keep the drama department in their school. Sophie Kircher played a character who suggested putting the play online so the audience could see the production, followed by Ashlyn Follman’s character who wrote a song titled, “The Show Must Go Online.” The drama teacher’s response was positive and he agreed they could still put it on the Internet, even though they wouldn’t make any money from it.

Their individual parts were done in their homes, with a variety of props, such as toothbrushes, hair brushes, a stuffed moose accompanied by Isabella Anderson and Braya Monley had her dog.

Each actor was only given their own parts. They didn’t get to know anyone else’s until Wallace put it altogether and posted it on Make a Scene Kids Theatre’s Facebook page for viewing. In total, the musical is about 35 minutes long. With the short clips from himself and others, he put together a blooper reel and posted in a separate video.

The 17 actors and actresses were from Minot, other areas of North Dakota and from out of state, and ranged in age from third to eighth graders. “MASK tries to reach out to as many people as possible and Ali tries to make things as available as possible,” Wallace said of the MASK founder.

Wallace said that MASK is working on doing another “The Show Must Go Online” for children from kindergarten through third grades with a different director.

Wallace has been involved in the theater scene for quite some time. He moved to North Dakota his freshman year of high school, getting into theater a year later. He graduated from Minot State University with a bachelor’s degree in music education. After he took his last final exam, he was on a plane to New York to tour with a kids theater. Talking in front of people and being someone else for a while are things he’s been comfortable with on stage.

During the pandemic, Wallace said that a lot more people have consumed more art. A lot of people watch and rely on theater for entertainment. The musical allows kids to consume and also partake in theater.

“One of the great things about being involved in theater is being able to tell stories that aren’t always told,” Wallace said. Through it, he’s made a lot of new friends. Sports weren’t his thing, so he joined the Central Campus Playmakers instead.

“I want to protect the arts and preserve them at any capacity,” Wallace stated. Some collegiate theaters have shut down due to low participation or other reasons. “Theater requires appropriate attention when necessary, and that solidified my understanding that theater is essential and necessary.”

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