A still of the Zoom production 'A Teacher’s New Normal:' top row, from left, Houston-Austin Local Board Secretary Shondra Marie, member Bob Rumnock and pre-member Sunday Sabbath; bottom row, from left, members Christian L. Scott, Lourdes Ruiz and John Cal

Did I ever think that I would actually be filming something during “COVID-tine?” My answer is short. Nope. My Equity musical had been canceled. Television shows that I had auditioned for were shut down. My normal jobs working with medical students as well as taping and coaching actors were on hold in their own sort of quarantine. I lost 90% of my work, and I know that in our industry, I was not the only one. So, when an Equity acquaintance, Christian L. Scott, reached out to me about a short, A Teacher’s New Normal, that she had written to be filmed Zoom-style, I was intrigued. And actually quite touched that she would think of me.

As Christian put out feelers on Actors Access to see who would want to join us in this adventure, I double-checked with staff to make sure that the production had been approved. Since we were all working from our own homes, running our own cameras, doing our own lighting, being our own wardrobe/hair/makeup personnel, handling our own props and so many other responsibilities that incredible crews normally take care of, we were approved.

And, like normal, script changes happened a day or so before shooting. I discovered that I was the Art Teacher, which meant that I now had to figure out a cool bulletin board idea with supplies that I had (mostly) on hand. A slight bit of panic threatened to overwhelm me, but then I had a glimmer of an idea. I didn’t have any poster board, but I did have my magnetic bulletin board where I put scripts for auditions and other important papers — and I had scrapbooking supplies for projects that I hadn’t really gotten around to composing - and I have a computer and a printer — and the ability to look up images online! (Plus, I had the script that sparked ideas of what to put on it.) Thus, an adorable Winston Prep art teacher bulletin board was born. Truthfully, I think that was the hardest part of my preparation, because I had to transform my bulletin board (see photo).

Marie's Winston Prep art teacher bulletin board before…

…and after!

Our troupe of wonderful, funny, game-for-anything actors from all over the country met on a Saturday, knit together through the magic of Zoom: Christian and I from Houston, Sunday Sabbath from Atlanta, Bob Rumnock from Los Angeles, John Caliendo from New Jersey and Lourdes Ruiz from Florida. I think most of us wound up printing off a grid so that we knew where each one of us would be on our Zoom-type call. I know I did! I taped it up right underneath my Sony camcorder, had my MacBook Pro right underneath and my umbrella lights set up behind my camera. This type of magic would not have happened if it wasn’t for #socialdistancing. 

We each did some “walla” of laughs and giggles to send to Christian so that she could take on the task of editing all of our footage into one cohesive whole. 

I just have to say that the more I personally tape and coach actors, the more I appreciate editors and everyone else involved in creating the art that we love so deeply. Let us not forget to show our appreciation to the myriad artists who create the world in which we thrive.

— By Houston-Austin Local Board Secretary Shondra Marie for the Houston-Austin Local newsletter

Photo: A still of the Zoom production A Teacher’s New Normal: top row, from left, Houston-Austin Local Board Secretary Shondra Marie, member Bob Rumnock and pre-member Sunday Sabbath; bottom row, from left, members Christian L. Scott, Lourdes Ruiz and John Caliendo.

And don't forget the lights! Umbrella lights are perfect for capturing the best side during filming.

The lighting and "camera" set up — complete with a seating chart for easy reference!

The final look of Marie's at-home set for ‘A Teacher’s New Normal.’

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