Springfield youth arts group members bond over online shows

A classic courtroom drama is about to get the 2020 Zoom era comedy treatment, and what better cast to perform it virtually than the generation that has embraced the format for online shows since the coronavirus pandemic began?

The Springfield Arts Council’s Youth Arts Ambassadors will present “12 Incompetent Jurors,” a parody of “12 Angry Men” rewritten to include comic moments anybody who has used Zoom or other meeting formats has likely experienced.

Shows will be 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3.

If the person who doesn’t know or care to use their computer’s mute button during your online meeting or that guy eating or drinking competing for attention with the speaker is part of your virtual meeting experience, “12 Incompetent Jurors” will replace frustration with laughs.

In this version updated in the past few months, a jury is meeting on Zoom, populated by quirky characters such as a guy obsessed with French fries, and it’s anybody’s guess if justice will be served. And that’s what made director Krissy Brown realize it was ideal for the Ambassadors.

“A lot of virtual programming is being implemented into the arts,” she said. “This is our second full show and the talent is amazing. With our first show, ‘Sticky Note,’ was trying to figure out the format as we were doing it, but Zoom has done things to make it easier.”

The 17 Ambassadors, who range from high school seniors to fifth graders, have learned how to troubleshoot when they find a problem, making the rehearsals easier. The group rehearses two hours Mondays through Thursdays for four weeks, much less than with the original production “Sticky Note” over the summer.

Brown thinks the audience will find “12 Incompetent Jurors” funny as it can appeal to adults on one level and anybody dealing with the new normal created by the pandemic.

She also noted the Ambassadors have made the adjustment to virtual performing smoothly.

“We realized quickly we can’t go for the spectacle like in an in-person show with sets, fog machines or snow on the stage. What they were missing was their connection,” said Brown.

Since the Ambassadors didn’t have a chance to enjoy the camaraderie of in-person rehearsals, the virtual experience was the next best thing.

Each rehearsal starts with what Brown calls a rose and thorn session in which the kids can share the good and bad things in their lives, such as a test they did well on or more serious concerns. The end of the week gets a “mental health check-in” in which the kids rate their week from 1-10.

“It’s turned into a way the kids can find if their friends are struggling and the parents, kids and classmates can reach out,” Brown said. “It’s a great way to get that connection.”

Brown, who is the Arts Council’s arts education director, said she didn’t know of any similar youth programs doing live shows. She reevaluates her program’s position every two weeks.

Plans are to attend the annual iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival virtually at the beginning of 2021, but the group is always anticipating what’s next.

“We have a lot of tentative plans and will jump on opportunities. We hope we can do an in-person musical in 2021, but we’re holding our breath to see when we’re safe and mentally well to perform.”

Tickets to view “12 Incompetent Jurors” cost $5. For ticket links or more information, go to the Arts Council’s web site at www.springfieldartscouncil.org or check their Facebook page.

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