Menlo Park teenager and avid theater lover Samantha Belding had a dream of directing a musical before leaving for college and she wasn't going to let a global pandemic stand in her way.
Thanks to a dedicated pod of creative friends, consultations with San Mateo and Santa Clara County officials and medical experts, and hours of rehearsals over Zoom and outdoors, that dream is now a reality. Her fully staged production of "Tuck Everlasting" will stream online April 30-May 2.
"Tuck Everlasting is my favorite musical and so appropriate right now, since it deals with the passage of time and what we do with the time we are given," Belding told this news organization. "'Tuck' ended up becoming a very fulfilling way to keep theater alive during the quarantine for myself and my friends."
Belding not only directed, choreographed and designed the show, based on the beloved novel by Natalie Babbitt, but also played one of the principal roles, Jesse Tuck.
The production has been in the works since August of last year.
"Logistical challenges included trying to work on acting while fully masked on our driveway, practicing harmonies during vocal rehearsals over Zoom (which we determined is impossible), and choreographing dance numbers while maintaining social distance," she said.
The show was filmed — without an audience — at the theater of Eastside College Preparatory School (where Belding's father was a longtime teacher). Because participants formed a social "bubble," they were able to perform and record the show together without masks, with strict adherence to health and safety policies. Belding herself is a senior at the School for Independent Learners in Los Altos, and the "Tuck Everlasting" cast of 16 represents 10 schools all together, including Eastside Prep, she said.
Belding, who plans to pursue a career in the performing arts and will study musical theater in college, said that what she's most proud of is bringing together the cast, whom she selected and invited based on previous shows they'd done together. The group recently reunited for a performance at Menlo Park's Cafe Zoe.
"They are all incredibly talented, but I really chose each one because they are passionate about theater, they respect the art form, and are all amazing team players," she said. "I will never forget this cast and the magic we created together."
Tickets to "Tuck Everlasting," which will stream at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, are $15. More information is available at tuck2021.com.