Backlight Theater Company Presents “The Institute”


Kiley Brockway

Anett Vaysberg (10) prac- tices a piroutte while teach- ing some choreography to the cast. Her and a bunch of other student leaders have had a great impact in putting this production together.

Imagine a school where everyone has to think the same and absolutely no creativity is tolerated. Finding out one’s interests and pursuing passions is not an option.

In the new musical, “The Institute,” students will perform, record and transform the story of a girl who attends this school and enforces the rules of no creativity
into a movie. From the dialogue to the choreography, Backlight Theatre Company (BTC) will perform an all student-created musical.

This year, BTC used a different approach for their annual musical.

“We had already decided over the summer that we had moved the musical to the spring to try to get as close to having an audience as we could,” Technical Theatre Coordinator Mr. Kevin Phelan said.

Despite this, BTC did not know, come May of 2021, if a live audience would be feasible. As a result, BTC recognized that an online performance would be necessary in order to guarantee the musical would still be available to the public. However, when BTC purchases the rights to perform a musical, it can only be streamed for a weekend or 48 hours.

“It’s very limited on who can watch [online plays],” Mr. Phelan said. “If we’re doing it online, it would be nice to be able to share it openly, and that’s what we’re going to be able to do because we control the publishing rights.”

Along with controlling the publishing rights, students have jurisdiction over several new responsibilities in order to make the musical successful.

“This year, we have student choreographers, students who wrote the script and music, students actually in the show and students in Crew. We also have assistant directors and stage managers that are great leaders to the cast,” Anett Vaysberg (10) said.

With these new responsibilities, in-person rehearsals play a crucial part in the success of the musical.

“We wear masks the entire time, have rehearsals two to three times a week, and we all stand in ‘boxes’ that are taped onto the stage, so we’re all apart the entire time.” Vaysberg said.

Students who choose to participate in the in-person rehearsals are required to take weekly COVID-19 tests through the school , and students who choose to stay remote participate in rehearsals on Zoom. With two different groups, BTC uses Soundtrap, an online music editing platform, in order to allow both groups to record songs. This platform enables students to learn and record songs at their own pace.

“Usually the music learning process takes three to four weeks, but now, we finished all of our songs in a bit over one week,” Vaysberg said.

Not only do the students get to partake in new rehearsal environments and various student roles, but BTC actors and actresses have more flexibility with character roles as well.

“I think it’s just going to be interesting for our actors because they really get to originate the roles that they’re in this year,” Mia Stefani (12) said. “Nobody has ever played these roles before, so they get to be really creative and make a lot of really cool choices because nobody has ever seen this show before.”

Students used their creativity to come up with a unique plot that would spark interest.

“When we first started in August, everybody got to submit an idea that they had—like a pitch, basically—that the musical story should be. Then everybody got to vote on the different pitches, and we refined the pitches as a group,” Stefani said.

The pitch that was ultimately chosen, “The Institute,” follows a girl named Willow who is a part of an organization called “The Doves.” The organization works to enforce rules that ban creativity. Willow, however, discovers the importance of creativity with the help of other characters in the show.

“We put our heart and souls into writing this show, and I think it’s really cool to now be able to watch that come to life,” Stefani said.