Under normal circumstances, high schoolers around Chicago would be taking the stage for the spring musical and participating in the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards (IHSMTA) right about now. But with school years cut short and performances canceled due to COVID-19, Broadway in Chicago decided to come up with a way to celebrate high school musical theater.
Broadway in Chicago has been showcasing performers from across the state, both current high schoolers and IHSMTA alumni, on its social media as a part of its program Around Broadway in 80 Days.
Cecilia Trippiedi and Natalie Doppelt are IHSMTA alumni who have submitted videos to the initiative and are encouraging current high schoolers to do the same.
“This is a really great opportunity for them to showcase themselves on a bigger platform than just around their school,” Trippiedi, 22, said. “It’s a great way for their talents to be recognized and showcased in a virtual way since we can’t all gather and celebrate.”
The senior at Otterbein University in Ohio represented Illinois at the Jimmy Awards, the national equivalent to IHSMTA, in 2016. Now her younger sister is a high school senior, unable to have that same opportunity. Though Trippiedi said her sister is upset about the situation, she’s still encouraging her to participate.
“I know it’s hard and probably kind of sad because it’s reminding you of what could have been,” Trippedi said. “So I’m really encouraging these students to submit their stuff, not only because … it’ll be great for them and it’ll also bring joy to so many other people.”
Doppelt, 20, spoke to the communal aspect of the project as its including current high schoolers and former participants.
“It’s a way of creating some sort of digital, virtual community to bring all of these performers together,” Doppelt said.
The sophomore at University of Pennsylvania said it’s also brought back old friends from her time at IHSMTA and the Jimmy Awards, making it a “cathartic” experience. Though she’s studying healthcare markets and finance, not musical theater, she said she values the relationships she formed through IHSMTA.
She said this type of connection is exactly the kind of distraction that some might need at this time.
“It’s a way to look on their phones or computers and not necessarily see upsetting headlines but rather get to share in the excitement over their peers’ performances,” Doppelt said.
That excitement serves as a positive escape from the current chaos and proves the power of the arts for Doppelt.
“It’s a reminder that despite everything going on and despite all the loss that we’re facing, that the arts will survive and that the arts if anything will prevail,” Doppelt said.
Around Broadway in 80 Days is accepting video submissions on a rolling basis until May 31. More information can be found on Broadway in Chicago’s website.