“Years ago, we did a radio play. I started thinking, we could do that now,” said Shorts, who didn’t want his 18th year at Los Osos to be defined by what wasn’t possible due to COVID-19, rather by what he and his students could accomplish in the face of adversity.
Working with his counterpart in the school’s TV and film department, Matt Tawney, Shorts created a 12-person, COVID-appropriate soundstage where students could stream live Friday night performances while practicing social distancing. The livestreams can be seen on YouTube, and are archived there as well for viewing after the fact.
The first Grizzly Radio Theater production featured a Halloween theme, with livestreams of “The Hitchhiker” and “The House in Cypress Canyon.” On November 6, students presented a Night of Noir with “The Shadow” and a Philip Marlowe episode.
Future presentations include a Family Comedy Night (November 20) and “A Christmas Carol” (December 11).
“It creates a sense of community. That’s what the kids miss – being together,” Shorts said. “The studios are all individual, and that first day, they all wanted to open up their mics to talk to one another. It gave me goosebumps seeing them so happy to be doing something.”
With new COVID protocols from the state, the livestream studio is being relocated from the school’s theater to outdoors. Another challenge, but one Shorts and his students are managing seamlessly.
“We need to stop saying it’s too hard. It is too hard, but let’s figure it out,” Shorts said, preferring to put the focus on the performances. Each week, the students rehears on zoom, do an onsite Thursday dress rehearsal, then go live on Fridays. As many as a dozen actors, three technicians and three to four video students participate.
The livestreams are building are building an audience not just among students and their parents, but with friends and relatives across the country.
“We’re definitely going to do more of this,” said Shorts, who is already planning productions for January and beyond.
Joshua Kirk, Principal at Los Osos, said the livestreams are a great diversion during these unusual times.
“Students are craving opportunities such as this, and I’m thrilled they’re having the opportunity to do what they love. It’s a credit to Mr. Shorts and Mr. Tawney, and of course to the students themselves,” Kirk said.
Said Dr. Mathew Holton, Superintendent of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District, “This is a wonderful example of the creativity and commitment of our District teachers and staff as we navigate these unchartered waters and ensure that all students receive an enriching high school experience regardless of the circumstance.”