Cast and crew of Under Milk Wood find a way to bring the US play online


William Schavee

Cast members of Under Milk Wood during a taped performance.

The Upper School fall play has always been an event that draws an audience from across the Saint Paul Academy and Summit School community. This year, for the production of Under Milk Wood, the actors prepared for months, and all of their hard work can be seen in two live streams that ran Dec. 11-12.

This year the option for audience members to watch the play live was eliminated, as COVID-19 had other plans for the show. The cast and crew did not let this new format stop them from showing viewers what they could do when given the opportunity to act using audio tracks and on stage motion.

The cast had to pre-record all of their lines so that when they went on stage to act out their part, they did not have to actually talk.

The production of Under Milk Wood was moved to an online format requiring the cast and crew to record the entire performance ahead of time in order to release the production on the intended date. Even in an online format, recording the entire show was limited by COVID-19 regulations. The cast had to pre-record all of their lines so that when they went on stage to act out their part they did not have to actually talk. Precautions like these limited the chance of spreading COVID-19, as the actors did not remove their masks when they performed on stage.

In taking precautions the cast and crew were limited in their interactions with each other, but they found ways to have fun through the regulations.

Senior Maren Ostrem played three different roles in the show: Mog Edwards, Mrs. Pugh, and Sinbad Sailors. She said, “One day before filming, four or five of us had a dance party on the stage to High School Musical. It was really dramatic and silly and just such a good way to relax before the stress of filming started. It took a lot of the pressure off. Rafa even joined us on the lights, making them flash and change with the music.”

This exuberant energy expressed during the dance party is the same type of energy that was clear throughout the play performance. The actors put every ounce of energy into each scene they recorded and their effort shows in the final production through the clear emotion they portray in their characters.

The daunting task of pre-recording the entire show and then putting action to it after the fact loomed over the cast and crew, but they were still able to find the positive side of the situation, “I think that filming, although it was something new for all of us, was actually really fun and it was a great opportunity,” senior Gavin Kimmel said.

Taking this mentality into the recording of the show kept the show from being brought down by the lack of in-person audience, the cast was willing to put the same effort into the online show as they attempted a completely new style of performing in front of a camera rather than a theater full of people.

Keeping COVID safe was hard, especially at the end. I wanted to hug everyone so badly but I knew I absolutely couldn’t. I just told myself that in time I’d be able to hug them.

— Jaden Jones

Through all of the struggles to get a production of Under Milk Wood to the SPA community the cast and crew maintained a positive attitude, their optimism for the end result of the show is the only thing that made the viewing of this year’s fall play possible. The ability to create such a strong performance came from a sense of unity that the cast and crew had with one another: “Keeping COVID safe was hard, especially at the end. I wanted to hug everyone so badly but I knew I absolutely couldn’t. I just told myself that in time I’d be able to hug them,” junior Jaden Jones said.

While this might not have been the fall play everyone was hoping for, the end result of Under Milk Wood was nothing less than exceptional. The actor’s ability to convey the emotion of the lines they weren’t speaking in the moment gave the show a sense of intimacy, even with a digital audience. The attention to detail, as an actor often had to switch the character they were playing in a matter of seconds, maintained the storyline, even as a familiar face took on a completely different personality.

Every aspect of the show had been taken into account by US Theater Director Eric Severson, and it all came together to create a fantastic video version of the play.


Under Milk Wood takes the form of an emotive, touching and, at times, humorous account of a spring day in the fictional Welsh seaside village of Llareggub. Omniscient narrators invite the audience to listen to the dreams, desires, loves and regrets of the inhabitants of the little fishing town. The play introduces us to characters such as Captain Cat, who dreams of his drowned former sea fellows, Nogood Boyo, who dreams of nothing at all, Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly nagging her two dead husbands, Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music, and Polly Garter, pining for her dead love. It is a unique and touching depiction of a village that has “fallen head over bells in love.” Later, the town awakens and, aware now of their feeling’s effect on whatever they do, we watch them go about their daily business.