Carolina Day School presented this year’s Upper School musical “Family Portrait” on April 15–17, a performance created, written and performed by Carolina Day middle and upper school students. Additionally, for the first time in Carolina Day’s history, the spring musical was held outdoors—a move that lent a unique and appealing atmosphere and ensured that the performance met this spring's pandemic safety considerations. This also marked the first musical with an all-student pit band.
“This show was born out of one simple desire—to connect,” said Upper School theater director David Dvorscak. “I wanted to find a way to connect our amazing student performers to a live audience. And to our audience, I wanted to give the gift of a live performance. I wanted the show itself to be about connection. I wanted the audience to be able to see a performer’s full face and hear their voices unencumbered. That meant we’d have to perform outdoors.”
Held on five stages, with incredible coordination to make the whole production flow, groups of audience members traveled from stage to stage, each shepherded by an actor in character performing a monologue, setting a tone for the next musical stage performance.
“The students rose magnificently to the challenge, crafting 23 compelling monologues on the theme of family,” said Dvorscak. “This group possesses the precisely unique blend of skills and abilities to pull it off. It’s beautiful how things work themselves out if you just set the intention out in the universe, make a beginning, put it in motion, and allow it to lead you to a conclusion.”
Head writer and script editor was Sophia Pereda-Echeverry. The musical was created by students Evan Brooks, Ella Christian, Holly Gill, Maclane Griffin, Liza Heck, Toria Hicks, Kylie Landolfi, Asher McKinney-Ring, Sophia Pereda-Echeverry, Sophia Smith, Ellsworth Sullivan, and Claire Thompson. Original musical arrangements for all songs were by musical director Parker Heck, with additional original melodies by Heck and Bennett Vance. Vocal musical director was Megan McConnell. Audiences enjoyed performances by actors, singers and musicians from both upper and middle school. Behind the production’s success was a robust student production staff, set and light crew, and faculty and staff members volunteers who served as audience shepherds.
Dvorscak described Family Portrait as “our gift of connection to all of us in a time when we are most in need of it.” As one audience member said on opening night, “Seeing our students perform tonight filled a void that I didn’t realize was missing. It was deeply meaningful, and it gives me hope.”