Into the Woods and out of the Pit

Ashton Gravett, Memorial Staff Writer

Edmond Memorial’s production of “Into The Woods” came with a twist this year- a virtual orchestra. Typically, the orchestra crams into a tiny space below the stage called the pit. Due to social distancing restrictions put in place because of COVID-19 that was unable to happen. Thus, virtual pit was born. Instead of being live in the auditorium directly in front of the stage, the pit players were in the orchestra room and played for the production through screens placed at left, right and center stage in the auditorium. 

Conductor and Memorial’s orchestra teacher, David Koehn, knew that pit would probably not be the same for the 2020-2021 school year, but it was nonetheless still a surprise. 

“I didn’t see a way around the decision so we were already trying to find a solution for that. With the pit that we have, you can’t socially distance at all and even with masks it would be too close for comfort,” Koehn said. 

Koehn was not alone in trying to figure out a solution to the problem of not being able to be in the pit; he had a lot of assistance from Anthony Risi, (the school’s auditorium and sound technician). According to Koehn, Risi gave the majority of proposals and then with the added help of principal Anthony Rose, the virtual pit was put together successfully.. 

“There weren’t that many technical difficulties, surprisingly,” first year pit player and senior Abby Neumeister said. “There was one rehearsal though when the camera died and we had no visuals for most of Act II.

 Of course, technical difficulties are to be expected with something as new and untested as a virtual orchestra. Another difficulty was having to take down the set up after every rehearsal just to put it back up the next day. Given the chance to change something, if virtual pit were to stick around, Koehn said that would be it.

Not only did the musical push Koehn’s patience, but it also pushed him to be a better conductor and teacher. 

“It was very difficult, one of the more difficult shows that I’ve conducted. And to put the virtual aspect on top of that was not one of the things that was high on my list of things to do.” Koehn said. 

 Some doubts within the cast had come up as well in regards to whether or not the virtual orchestra would affect their cues due to the placement of the screens, or if the connection would delay the music and throw the pace off. 

“The week before the show, we had five hour rehearsals and worked with the virtual pit to perfect our show,” senior Genna Callahan said. “It worked much better than I anticipated.” 

 Given the option to do a virtual pit again, Callahan, Neumeister and Koehn all agreed that they would if it was the only way to keep everyone safe. 

Contact Ashton Gravett at [email protected]