Since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted live theater, Oak Park and River Forest High School performing arts teacher Michelle Bayer and her students have worked tirelessly to keep the shows going. They have produced plays and musicals, attracting dozens of staff and students to lend a hand, while keeping the school safe.
While live theater has made a comeback in recent months, Bayer knows the pandemic is far from over. And, as she and the students return to the stage, they continue to face a major challenge – a shortage of microphones – and now look to the community for some support.
The Huskie Booster Club, a parent volunteer organization that raises funds for various activities and programs at the OPRF, launched the Can You Hear Them Now? Campaign to buy microphones for the theater department and asks area residents to donate. The club aims to raise $ 13,000 for a new 12-microphone audio system and will launch the campaign on November 30 in time for Giving Tuesday. Held every Tuesday after Thanksgiving since 2012, Giving Tuesday is part of a movement that encourages people to give and collaborate with various nonprofits and organizations around the world.
Because students have to be masked during their performances, they have to be microphones or else “they cannot be heard” even inside the Little Theater, which before the pandemic had more than 300 guests, said Bayer, who is also chairman of the performing arts department. One problem is that the existing pickups are ten years old and no longer perform well, Bayer said. Another problem is that there are simply not enough microphones for everyone. In order to prevent the spread of Covid, the microphones must be disinfected and disinfected and left unused for a week, and “that also limits the number of microphones for the number of children we have,” she said.
“There is a greater demand for microphones, not just for the theater, but for everything else that would use the Little Theater space,” Bayer said. “You just can’t hear people without them. ”
In the past, the theater department relied on ticket sales to fund many aspects of its productions, including set design, lighting, costume rental, hair styling and makeup. But limiting the public to allow social distancing capped those ticket sales, ultimately creating a drop in funding. As a result, Bayer and its students relied on local organizations, including the school’s alumni club, to replenish the shows.
Bayer said she hoped people would consider donating to the club’s fundraising booster.
For Bayer, the OPRF’s performing arts program is grounded in the power of storytelling and often paves the way for students to use their voices.
“For many of our kids, what they do in their extracurricular activities is what makes them successful in school,” she said. “A dynamic theater department, a dynamic music department, a dynamic robotics department, a dynamic athletics department – all of these things enhance a student’s performance inside the classroom.
“By donating here, you are not just donating to the theater department. These mics are going to be used by several departments, and you’re re-engaging the kids to live, to the theater in person, but to experience the in-person education, which they so badly needed having left last year.