A New Form of Acting for CLS Students

Written By Lucy Dempsey, Reporter


Wildly enthusiastic applause from the audience filled the auditorium in the PAC as the curtain fell and the play ended. The actors returned to the stage, took their final bows, and the audience again showed their appreciation, this time for the cast and crew. 

However, this scene was only a memory for Charlotte Latin’s theater arts students; COVID-19 changed the way they were to share their performances with the community for 2020-2021. This year Charlotte Latin students produced a 30-minute film at the Duke Mansion based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” instead of performing live in front of hundreds of people. 

For all of the participants, transitioning in their work from stage to film to a real challenge. Matt Cosper, Charlotte Latin Director of Theatre Arts said, “It was totally unprecedented. We have never made a film before here at Latin and so there was a very steep learning curve. I think it is easy for actors to forget sometimes just how different theatre and film really are.” Cosper thought it was a great opportunity for the young actors and hoped they would remember how much they had learned for the rest of their lives. 

Seven actors talk among each other in the ballroom scene. Photo by the crew of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Matt Cosper.

All of the actors faced a variety of challenges they had to overcome to create a successful production.. Helen Hurden ‘23 who played Maria Lucas, noted that even setting up a shooting schedule required a lot of compromises. Hurden said, “The biggest challenges were definitely scheduling and accommodating everyone’s conflicts. We had to film on the weekends and after school sometimes, and it was difficult to find times when everyone was available to shoot.” Hurden also missed being able to act on stage because she made most of her memories rehearsing and hanging out backstage with her friends. 

Morgan Hammer ‘22 was a narrator. Hammer had other, more personal obstacles that impacted her participation in the filming of the production. “My biggest challenge was being fully remote. It was very hard to rehearse and watch all of my friends be together and feed off of their energy when I couldn’t,” Hammer said. Hammer’s health impacted her both physically and emotionally. “I also got major anxiety when I had to take my mask off to film my scenes because of my underlying health conditions; it was the first time I had seen people and left my house since March. However, I’m grateful I got to participate, and my castmates and crewmates  tried to include me as much as possible.”

Sophia Vona ’22, Kate McCracken ’22, Belle Nabors ’23, Lizzy Griesser ’22, and Alison Moore ’21 are anxiously waiting for the wedding to begin. Photo by the crew of Pride and Prejudice

Sophia Vona ‘22  discovered a new problem she never had to consider when performing in front of a live audience. Vona said, “The hardest thing was not looking directly into the camera, especially when it was right in our faces.” As Mary Bennett, Vona’s favorite part in playing the role was the character’s ability to tell stories. This characteristic can be hard to project when transitioning from an audience reacting to the actors and a camera recording action.
As the producer, Adam Cyzner ‘21 took on a very difficult job, which included a multitude of moving pieces to keep the project on schedule and the actors on task. “As the producer, making the schedule and factoring in everyone’s conflicts was very difficult, especially as we encountered problems on set that forced us to cut scenes or rearrange the schedule,” Cyzner said. 

The tech crew really enjoyed the new equipment they got to learn and experiment with using. However, Henry Roper ‘24 found the tight production schedule stressful. “It was very chaotic because we were only given a few months when usually movies take years,” Roper said. Roper loved being able to create a film that anyone could watch, whenever they wanted to see it. 

Gabe Stein ‘23 was the role of a Stagehand. In the end Stein was very proud of the production. Stein said, “I loved the product we put out and would highly encourage a format like this to be done again.“ Stein really enjoyed being able to go off campus to film and he took great pride in the final product after the movie was completed. 

Students and directors pose for their picture in front of the Pride and Prejudice poster. Photo by Adam Cyzner.

Through all the stress and worry the live production of “Pride and Prejudice” created for Latin’s cast and crew, it opened up many new experiences for everyone. This format gave the tech crew the chance to try out new equipment and the thespians the opportunity to take on a new acting challenge. They may not have heard the thunderous applause of the audience, but they definitely felt the appreciation from the Hawk community for another outstanding fine arts performance.