Happy Medium

How do you put on a musical during a pandemic? The cast and crew of SCU’s The Book of Holding On learned how to perform online last spring.

After a year of silence, SCU theatre students and faculty pulled off a musical in Spring 2020. Like so much of the era, this musical came together online. The Book of Holding On tells the story of 13-year-old Emmy. Traveling inside her mind, audiences follow the whimsical ways she deals with her parents’ divorce and her best friend’s scary thoughts. Composer, lyricist, and book author Sarah Hirsh hopes Emmy’s story unlocks something deeper in the audience, as it reflects on the pandemic: “I think this show opens the door to have conversations about terror, about all of the change that’s happening around us, and things we can’t control. And yet, even when we are dealing with change, we are still allowed to celebrate and carry with us the stuff that makes us who we are.”

Performing virtually, SCU students told the tale of Emmy in The Book of Holding On musical, a whimsical exploration of growing up, mental illness, and coping with change. Photo courtesy SCU.

The virtual format turned into a happy medium for the musical. The technology was new to director Jeff Bracco ’89, but he and the production used it creatively. “We were able to do special effects—and switch locations really fast—in a way we wouldn’t be able to do on stage. Zoom was a perfect medium for this script.” In just under two months, the 8-person cast learned how to act, sing, and dance together while apart. Lucy Nino ’22, who played Emmy, performed alone, from an empty office in Mayer Theatre. “I sang my heart out to a bookshelf every night. As much as I wish I could’ve been onstage with my friends, it still felt good to see them on my screen and be back performing at all.”

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