Magnet Students Take the Virtual Stage

Students from Eliot Arts Magnet Academy perform a video montage of the school’s Spring musical, The Wiz

While the pandemic sweeps around the world, schools are finding creative ways to continue showcasing students’ talents online.

As Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy theatre students prepared earlier this semester for their annual production, the pandemic suddenly swept through the theater department like Macbeth. And now, just like that, you can add Spring musicals to the growing list of virtual school events, like class meetings and graduation.

Cindy Abbott, music teacher at Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy, wasn’t about to let a worldwide pandemic stop her students from performing.

The school is now preparing a video montage of the department’s planned musical Aladdin featuring all of the show’s soloists.

According to Abbott, the students were busy recording their solos in costume all of last week.

“We called our costumer who, luckily, had a lot of costumes at her house in Whittier because they weren’t done yet,” said Abbott. “She drove out here over the weekend. She went to five kids’ houses and delivered their costumes. Students filmed their solos in their homes or yards- in costume, fully acted and staged.”

The solo performances will be released on the school’s Facebook page beginning May 15th, the date on which the show itself was set to open live.

Eliot Arts Magnet’s musical director and teacher Micol Issa brought her student cast and crew together to create a virtual reunion as well.

“After watching a Parks and Recreation special that was filmed remotely, I had the idea to write a script done in a ‘virtual reunion’ style. I wanted to highlight my whole cast and showcase many of the 8th graders for whom this would replace their last moment ‘on stage’.”

Students from Eliot Arts Magnet Academy perform a video montage of the school’s Spring musical, The Wiz

The video features the school’s cast of The Wiz in a hopeful and humorous short about the virtual reunion plans. Students also performed a video montage of the show’s key song and positive mantra, “Ease on Down the Road”.

The teachers noted that there is no substitute for the boost of self-esteem students receive from their moment on stage; however, this will give students an opportunity to showcase their work until students and audiences can return to auditoriums again.

Some roles, such as stage crew, are more difficult to continue or showcase in an online environment, yet those opportunities are critical to many students’ middle school experience.

As Abbott told Pasadena Now last week, “I get a lot of really shy ones and they come up to me in the first year, and say, ‘Oh Ms. Abbott. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to be out in front. I don’t even want to go on stage. Can I work backstage?,’ We often have three tiers of participation and so students who want to just work backstage, still come on stage once or twice and by the end of the show they come up to me and they say, ‘Next year I want to be in the full chorus or the dance ensemble,’ or ‘I want to try out for a part,’ because they’ve had that chance to gain some self-esteem. I love what it does for shy kids. That’s what I was, I was a shy kid. I was in the chorus of musicals and it gave me that chance to kind of show what I could do in the comfort of having other people around me. So I love that aspect.”

The middle school teachers hope that these video productions inspire positivity until their theatre classes can resume in person. Remarked Issa, “It was important to me to show that even in the most challenging circumstances, we can create art, and that art is what gives us hope.”

Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy, 1505 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena, (626) 396-5830 or visit

Charles W. Eliot Arts Academy, 2184 North Lake Avenue, Altadena, (626) 396-5680 ext. 70001 or visit




blog comments powered by Disqus

Pasadena Now has been published daily since April, 2004 and is among the very oldest continously operated community news websites in the U.S.

Pasadena Now strives to publish a full spectrum of news and information articles in service to the entire community. The publication will remain free to readers and will not erect paywalls.

Pasadena Now strives to provide factual, unbiased reporting. Our opinion section is open to all.