The Show Must Go Online! M'KIS Drama Students Shine in Virtual Production
As the news of school shutdowns and MCOs kept coming over the last year, our drama students prepared for the unexpected. Our MS & HS Theater teacher, Ms. Rachel Damon, knew that she needed to find a show that could be performed online in the event that campus closed, which is exactly what happened.
Because they were prepared, our theater students adapted their theater production quickly! They had chosen to perform 'Definitely Not Clue' a new show with audience interaction designed for Zoom, and they knew this would be a great time to embrace the challenges of online acting. Read on to get to know the cast and learn about their brave adventures in virtual drama production.
Q & A with Ms. Rachel Damon, M'KIS Drama Teacher
Tell us a little bit about why you chose to perform Definitely Not Clue for this year’s production.
I looked at a large number of plays, radio shows and other material that was online and wanted to find something that would be interactive and still have the immediacy and community feel of live theater. When I found 'Definitely Not Clue', a new show with audience interaction designed for Zoom, I knew it would be a great fit for our students.
Halfway through your preparation and rehearsals, the CMCO was put into place and you had to quickly come up with an alternative plan for the performance. What was that like?
I had been obsessively watching the case numbers in Malaysia start to go up, and thought this was a possibility. I sent the costumes home with the students the week before we went online and luckily had a day’s notice to put together green bulletin board paper for all the students that they were able to take home and use as green screens. We were initially going to film in the theater, but needed to transition to home filming. Luckily, we had always planned for the show to be online, so that made the logistics easier. We worked with the students to find the best set ups in their houses, some of them borrowing technology from their parents to find computers that would work with the virtual backgrounds in Zoom. The entire show was filmed directly on Zoom!
So much of theater is collaborative and about being together in one space. What has it been like to put together and rehearse a production while doing everything virtually?
We have been really lucky to have great parent support for this production, which has helped things run more smoothly. There have been some challenges of working online with younger siblings and pets running into the shot, and many technical difficulties. Some of the students had to ask their families to get offline so they would have enough bandwidth to stream! I have been so impressed with students' abilities to be resilient and roll with things as their green screens fell off the walls around them or they dealt with wifi issues. There are certainly added challenges of not being in the same room, but the students have really risen to the challenges.
Have there been any fun surprises or unexpected things you’ve discovered since you transitioned to virtual production mode?
The students have really enjoyed “being in the same room” (albeit a Zoom room), with their peers and it has given them a creative outlet and something to look forward to during the CMCO. I have been really impressed by their positive attitudes. Working virtually does have more of a cinematic feel than live theater and we have been working on camera proximity and taking the format of Zoom into account with our staging. I feel like we have all become Zoom pros after this performance and it has been fun to look at performances in a new way. I am excited for the audience to see all their hard work and interact with us in the chat to make this a more communal experience.
What’s one thing you want our students and parents to know about theater and what it means to students who participate in it?
Theater and performance are so critical for students, especially during the times we live in. If you think about what has gotten you through the lockdowns and MCO, most people would mention Netflix, TV shows or movies. All those actors got their start in school theater programs, and it's important that we continue to nurture the next generation of artists. Theater allows students to work collaboratively toward a common goal and have a social and creative outlet to persevere through difficult times.
In Their Own Words: Get to Know the Cast!
From left to right: Marisa McKenzie, Abood Alomari, Thara Thiruppathi Ahila, Adrian Sanchez, Jaime Lively.
Megan Jacobs, Assistant Director and playing Rube Rose: "Assistant Directing this production was an amazing experience! It was a ton of work, but allowed me to have a better appreciation for directors and editors. Continuing to stay involved with the community/school was also a blessing. Although things have been very uncertain due to COVID, it was nice to do a stable production. And I can officially say I have become a Zoom pro! I hope others will have the same enjoyable experience as me!
Marian Forson, playing Mr. Body/Mysterious Voice: "I had never really done any real drama productions before this, but in drama class, I got to do skits and scenes. It was interesting doing this production virtually. I got to learn how to set up a green screen, I practically became a Zoom pro, and I got to meet new people. It was also a good exercise in being patient, since everything was new to every member of the cast, and it took a while to get things set up. In the end, really fun and I honestly wouldn’t mind doing it again."
Campbell Budworth, playing Ruby Rose: "The key differences between acting in an in-person performance and acting in a virtual performance is the memorization of the lines, the product, and the process of production. Memorizing the lines was very different when doing the virtual performance, because you could have the lines beside you while filming. In an in-person performance, you get an evening out to see something amazing. But in a virtual performance, you get an evening to see something amazing in your own home!"
From left to right: Megan Jacobs (Assistant Director), Taeeon Jun, Reem Khalife, Smriti Tandon, Marian Forson.
Arwa Alomari, playing Astrid Pitt: "I enjoyed it and thought it was very interesting because it's my first show and because we filmed it at home!"
Thara Thiruppathi Ahila, playing Kevin: "This was my first online play, and it was really different from the real stage. We could do a lot more than traditional drama, like making people disappear out of the blue, summon costume changes with the snap of a finger (with the help of a little editing) and grow a beard. It took a lot of time to prepare and set up the shooting location. We had many technical issues, but we were able to successfully overcome it. Although it was challenging, online drama is just as fun as being on stage and filming was really fun. I laughed a lot and interacted with my fellow cast members, and the experience was memorable. I hope we will have a ‘Definitely Not Clue’ reunion by playing the board game ‘Clue’ virtually in 5 years from now!"
Reem Khalife, playing Forest Pine: "This has been such a unique, fun, and exciting experience, from collecting props around the house, trying frantically to get a better pair of headphones, and getting everyone to be quiet because we were filming! We got to set up green screens, talk to imaginary people while tilting our heads upwards to fit the layout, and more, and this was definitely challenging but it has been so exciting and fun that I wouldn't change it for the world. I would like to thank Ms. Damon, Megan, and Jaida for thinking through everything and for making this possible in the first place."
From left to right: Campbell Budworth, Jaida Sanada (Assistant Director), Aryan Sachdev, Hiya Khera, Arwa Alomari.
Adrian Sanchez, playing Greg Poupon: "Being an actor in these crazy times, during a pandemic, can be challenging. When we were shooting we ran into a few problems such as lag time online, green screens not working, siblings running into your room, and your dad trying to be on a conference call while you’re filming and slowing down the internet. But some of the great parts of being an actor during these times is you are in your comfort zone and the camera only captures the top half of your body, so you can wear comfy bottoms.
Hiya Khera, playing Ava LeFowl: "Filming online has been a challenge because of all the new things that we had to use. Even though it was hard, it was definitely a lot of fun not just to record but also to experiment with new things like virtual green screen backgrounds. Some differences were that we didn’t get to record next to each other at school like we were going to if there was no lockdown, and we won’t be able to be at school with each other and celebrate while people are watching our show that we all worked really hard for. Even with everything going on, we still managed to do our best and make this show entertaining to watch! "
Marisa McKenzie, playing Kevin: "This show has been very different from any of the other shows I’ve been in before, mostly because it is online. We also had to adapt, but once we knew the show was going to be online, we didn’t have any problems switching to practices online. This show is also different because I’ve never had digital practices before for a show, so that was new to me. "
Green Club Leads Day of Climate Action
Led by the efforts of the M'KIS Green Club, we strive to promote environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly practices at M'KIS.
On Friday, September 25, hand-painted signs promoting climate justice popped up on the M'KIS campus as part of the M'KIS Green Club's efforts to draw attention to this important day. The hand-painted signs are an important reminder that the future of a healthier, greener planet is up to all of us.
As part of their efforts to step up for a brighter climate future, the M'KIS Green Club also put together 5 simple "Green Tips" that anyone can implement. By making small, individual changes to our habits, we can have an incredible collective impact on our campus, our homes, and our planet.
Read on for easy ways you can ensure we keep our planet green for generations to come!
Nurturing Creativity and Building Community During COVID-19
It's in times like these that our creativity shines. As a school that prides itself on community, M'KIS proudly celebrate accomplishments from all members of our community, including M'KIS parents. One of our M'KIS parents, Sukhada, recently wrote a moving piece about her family's journey during the global pandemic. Read on for her personal story and some insights.
You can read the article here: https://bit.ly/2Xm3W3i
Drawing inspiration from her personal life, Sukhada writes about how she believes COVID-19 affects us as a community. During this time of uncertainty, she is grateful for a life of abundance and particularly for her little boy, who keeps a smile on his face and his spirits high through these trying times.
She also has a message for the M'KIS community during this time:
"I am always impressed at how the teachers at M'KIS have consistently echoed a message of being environmentally conscientious and thoughtful towards each other through the various class lessons and activities they plan for our children. I hope we allow our children ambassadors to recommend small changes in each of our family's lives so we can be more conscientious towards each other and our planet moving forward. It will be in these small acts that we can begin to see change."
Student Feature - Adam Swims for a Cause
We sat down with Adam, a Grade 10 student and swimmer at M’KIS, to learn a little more about what motivates him.
Starting at 8 years old and competing in his first national championship at the age of eleven, Adam is an exceptional swimmer with an impressive amount of national medals to his name. But winning is not what drives Adam ; it’s more important to him that he continues to improve his personal best times, stays healthy, and grows as a person. To achieve these goals, Adam trains 6 days per week, sometimes twice in one day! At Adam's last swim competition in Australia in December, he won 9 medals. His humility is admirable and something that draws people to him.
As a 10th grader, Adam has to complete an IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Personal Project. He has chosen to use his strength as a swimmer and to find sponsors to earn money for a charity that is dear to his heart, the Hope Foundation in KL. From October 4 to January 31, Adam will be asking for donations for every kilometer he swims. He is calling his project Adam’s Autism Awareness Aquathalon. If you are interested in supporting Adam’s cause, please contact Ms. Schmidt.
Conservation Week 2020: Taking Care of our Collective Home, Planet Earth
Read on for ideas on how to help the planet, while staying home.
This year's M’KIS Conservation Week is going to be special for many reasons. Not only will we be spending this week at home, but it’s also the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Despite not being able to mark the occasion together, the M'KIS Green Club is committed to making it a memorable and impactful week.
Every year, M’KIS organizes Conservation Week in conjunction with other Earth Day events that take place all around the world.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd, 1970, when twenty million people in the United States took to the city streets and college campuses to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement into force.
Earth Day is a day when people from all over the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.
Today, we might be limited to the confines of our homes, but our actions still matter. To honor Earth Day’s 50th anniversary and M’KIS Conservation Week, we ask you to join the Green Club in our efforts to spread awareness in one of the following ways:
We look forward to seeing your photos, messages, and green initiatives. Together we can make a difference to our environment and the future of this planet. We hope that despite all the challenges and the limitations of social distancing, Conservation Week 2020 is a memorable one.
Lastly, to prove to you how much our actions impact our environment, we would like to send a message of hope. Here is an article by two of our M'KIS Green Club members about the impact that the measures taken to fight the present pandemic have had on our environment.
To learn more about the history of Earth Day and participate in one of the many virtual events that will take place during the next few days, visit www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/.
Student Feature - Joanne, Grade 8
Student Feature - Joining M’KIS in Kindergarten and now in Grade 8, Joanne has been drawn to the water since she was 3 years old. Her training regime is intense, with pool sessions at least 6 times a week. Joanne has been competing in swimming since the age of 8. In a recent competition, she took home 4 silver medals and 3 bronze medals. Her goal is to be a state and national swimmer one day, with the ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics.
Joanne is a soft-spoken student who does not like to draw attention to herself. When asked why she loves swimming so much, one of her reasons was “Swimming takes my mind off school and helps me cope with daily stresses.” Her favorite class at school is strings. Next year, Joanne will qualify to play on the Junior Varsity Volleyball team, something she is looking forward to.
The M’KIS Community would like to wish Joanne all the best for her future endeavors. You can achieve anything you put your mind towards.
The Importance of Play - A Parent’s Perspective
Written by Saana Pietilä - Mont'Kiara International School Parent
Why play is important to me
I come from Finland, where kids play until they start school at the age of seven. Their first two years of school are only four hours long, and every 45-minutes, there is a 15-minute play break. The Finnish education system is currently regarded as one of the leading systems in the world.
Children don't see playing as learning; it is just something that comes naturally to them. It is a part of living and how they perceive the world. When kids play, they develop a sense of themselves and others.
This made me curious about how much playtime my kids have during the day. My kids have been at M’KIS for four and a half years and I recently landed an internship at M’KIS, which opened the door for me to observe the classroom in action. As a parent, I had a very different perspective of what actually happened in the classroom and was pleasantly surprised at what I found out. My experience below is focused on kindergarten.
One thing I learned is that purposeful play is used extensively by M’KIS teachers. Teachers provide students with various options regarding what they can play. An example of this is where, during playtime, students built a house for animals and were given creative freedom about how they did this. Students saw this as playtime, but, in reality, they were learning social, problem-solving, and creative thinking skills through play. Additionally, they were also learning about animal habitats. I watched in awe as the teachers guided their students in the right direction and encourage them to ask questions along the way. It was a fun way to learn.
“I invite my students to learn.” - M’KIS Kindergarten Teacher.
When students are provided choices, they are more creative, open-minded, and curious. I witnessed an example of this when students were shown paper and pencils on a table and asked, “what can we do with these?”. The teacher knew that she wanted them to make a book, but she wanted the students to come to that conclusion by themselves and was interested in the ideas they would come up with as alternatives.
Regular recess and free play time provide students with another opportunity to practice their social and emotional skills, without them even realizing it. This is a safe zone for them to see where the limits are, explore various interactions, and, most importantly, make mistakes. This type of play allows them to learn how to independently overcome difficult situations and work through their feelings
It was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned that my kids play much more than I realized. Just looking at the timetable did not provide me with the entire picture. It may not be free play all the time, but they do play. Even though, as a Finnish parent, I will always want my kids to have more playtime, the most important thing for me is that they are happy and that they want to go to school. It is a pleasure to pick my kids up in the afternoon and to see the smiles on their faces.
“Play gets kids ready for learning, teaches them how to pay attention, and how to play well with others. When parents and teachers have fun, the kids fun too!” - Saana Pietila - Proud M’KIS Parent.