The Global Search for Education: Quaranteened Explores the Life of Teens Trying to Stay Connected During Lockdown
Quaranteened: A Virtual Musical, produced and directed by Cori Anne Laemmel, is about teen life during the COVID19 pandemic documented through Zoom classes, FaceTime, TikTok and texts. The story addresses many critical issues, including mental health, anxiety and death, and was originally premiered during the pandemic by The Theater Bug, a non-profit theater group based in Nashville, Tennessee dedicated to supporting young people through the performing arts. The production features a powerful, original musical score written by teens (Grace Bronleewe, Christopher Cooper, Ariana Crefeld, Zoe Dominguez, Robin August Fritsch, Zoe Johnson, Rowan Maher, Gus O’Brien, Tigris Parada, Hannah Trauscht, Charlie Webb) that draws us into the characters’ emotionally charged and thought-provoking world. The entire production was written and performed remotely from the homes of each of the young artists involved. Quaranteed: A Virtual Musical was selected for Best of the Fest 2021 by KIDS FIRST! in association with the Planet Classroom Network.
The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Cori Anne Laemmel.
When was this idea first conceived? Was it based on real experiences? Which parts were grounded in reality and which parts were made up?
Quaranteened started as a program for young writers, 12-18. Applicants were instructed to submit a monologue, short scene, or song based on the prompts provided around the then current lockdown. After selecting our writing team, we took the pieces and created a through line and story to connect each of the pieces. Students then created all the missing pieces musically and for the script, and we workshopped it for another week. While the pieces submitted were all fictional, many of the themes were rooted in their real life experiences in March of 2020.
The production team must have been facing similar obstacles identical to those the characters faced. How did your team navigate around them? What surprised you most and what lessons did you learn?
The production team for Quaranteened was absolutely incredible. None of us had ever done anything remotely similar to this project, so we were learning as we went. For many of us, it was our first time on a Zoom call, or creating a virtual project, terms that seem so completely normal now, a year and a half later. The biggest challenge was that we were learning right along with the kids. Tony and Laura Matula of MA2LA were the real heroes of that program. They had such high standards and worked tirelessly to make sure the final product was the best possible quality.
The story could have just focused on the teenagers but you decided to incorporate family members into the piece. Can you speak to the choice behind that and why you think it makes the story more powerful?
One of the original monologues submitted was written by a young man describing what it was like to try and FaceTime his grandfather who was in assisted living due to Alzheimers. It was so painful to hear his story. Kids’ relationships with their grandparents have the ability to be so transformative and important. Many kids at that time were unable to connect with their special people. It was one of the first pieces that really struck me when we read submissions. That student’s grandfather passed last week and I was so grateful to know he was able to reconnect with him in a meaningful way.
Can you speak about the music? What do you believe audiences most enjoy?
Only in Nashville would an original musical written by teens be full of certified bops! The original submissions were incredible, but some of my favorite pieces are the ones the kids were tasked with writing after we started to put the whole show together. “One World” was written by three girls, Hannah Trauscht, Grace Bronlewee, and Ariyah Brynn. We had a group discussion with all the writers about how we wanted the show to feel at the end, and what we wanted the message of the show to be. Those girls took all the notes from that discussion, and over FaceTime wrote this KILLER, beautiful anthem. I cried the first time I heard it.
I think audiences at The Theater Bug have always loved to hear the perspective of young people in our shows. This project has become sort of a time capsule of a remarkable time in history. None of us really knew what we were in for in March of 2020, and resilience shines through their writing, but also just in the fact that we were able to create something at all during that time. That is certainly what I am most proud of. There were many, many virtual projects popping up everywhere after, but in those first few weeks of lockdown, it was a little like being the only ones awake in Sleeping Beauty’s castle. We knew we wanted to keep going, keep creating, and I am so thankful we did.
Are there plans to develop the musical any further? Do you think it could work in other formats?
I think we are all hopeful that this script has new life! It works so well in a virtual format of course, but could also work live for audiences. I would love to produce it as a live theater piece someday, and would love to see other education programs produce it virtually or live! The show is available to license and we have gotten interest from several folks over the past year. Right after we wrapped Quaranteened, we produced a 5-part musical web series called “Stories,” and and I would love to see them both on stage someday!
C.M. Rubin and Cori Anne Laemmel
This content was originally published here.