Creativity is a way of life for the CJ performing arts staff, so when principal Greg Mueller asked CJ teachers to try new ways to teach and build community online, the department immediately stepped up to center stage. And though the CJ auditorium remains dark through these weeks of distance learning, the staff created a virtual CJ stage where students could still shine.
Thursday Night Live was born to give students a chance to rehearse talents and perform for each other. The talk show / open mic format gave each performer a few minutes in the spotlight, and everyone a chance to have some fun in between. Opening night featured eight performances in all.
"We had a great turnout with about 30 students and lots of fun and laughs. It was so good to see them," said Caitlin Cronin Bennett, drama and choir teacher. "We are planning to do this weekly to help students feel more connected. It was much needed joy for this first week of distance learning — we miss our students!"
Hosted by Bennett, Luke Grieshop, teacher, and Debi Schutt, department chair, the activity was designed to help the group check in on each other.
"Our students are searching for ways to continue to make music and keep the arts meaningful in their lives," said Schutt. "This activity provided an opportunity for engagement and connection — creating a virtual space for us to share, learn and grow together.
"As you can imagine, community looks different to us right now. We hope to bridge this gap of not being together at school by providing a creative outlet for the students, and continue to be the touchstone they need right now."
"Back stage" with performers
Olivia Cotton '23
At first I thought the idea sounded very fun and a great way to bring our performing arts community together during this time. I was a bit nervous but mostly over all I felt excited to share with everyone and see what everyone else had to share as well. I think this was great for students because it brought us all back together in a very fun and interactive way.
Mikayla Jette '21
I was super excited about the idea of having us all get together. I have been missing everyone so much and this sounded like a great opportunity to join the performing arts community in some fun without stressing about school work or being stuck at home. We could enjoy each other's company and have some fun laughs together.
I was nervous after I signed up to perform something because performing in front of my peers freaks me out. I was also sharing my own work instead of embodying another character. I decided to read a poem I wrote while I have been at home. What was really cool about this experience was people had the opportunity to share gifts they may not always get to share with our community through this meet. We are able to encounter new talents and gifts that our community has. I thought it was really cool. I learned a lot about my peers through this event.
It is a true blessing to have such great staff on the performing arts department. Their dedication and love for creating community is what makes our department special. They go out of their way to bring a new light to the students. This Thursday Night Live brought many smiles and laughs that are hard to find. A true joy was met as we met a gave each other our time. I think it was good for the students because it was something different, but entertaining. It also gave us an opportunity to see familiar faces and talk to our friends. It was a great opportunity for CJ to build community. I feel like the event gave us a chance to grow closer even if we have to be 6 feet away :)
I am looking forward to participating in the event again. It warmed my heart to see so many people join and have a good time. I also loved seeing my peers get the chance to share their talents in a safe, positive space where they can be whatever they want to be.
Kat Bishop '20
When I first heard about Thursday Night Live I thought it was a really cool idea! I've been missing my friends a lot. I was a little bit nervous at first, especially since I was sharing something that I wrote/parodied — I sang a coronavirus-themed cover of "For the First Time in Forever" from Frozen. But, my love of performing overpowered my nerves as it always does. I loved seeing the positive reactions and encouragement from my teachers and classmates.
Thursday Night Live gave us a place to laugh and connect in a time where it is sometimes hard to do so. Not only were we able to talk to each other, but some of us had the opportunity to perform and share our talents, even some that aren't typically shared at school. CJ is all about community, and this event brought us together virtually and allowed us to participate in that even though we are unable to be together physically.