AAPS: Director Jayme Kelmigian talks about this year’s FutureStars talent competition

Read original article at: www.weloveannarbor.com.

The FutureStars talent competition has been a sold-out Pioneer Theatre Guild tradition for 19 years.

And nothing—including a world-wide pandemic—could stop the music.

Featuring the pre-recorded performances of 20 students onstage in Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High School, FutureStars 2021 will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 13. A panel of judges will determine the Top 5 performances and—from the comfort of their living room couches—the audience will get to vote for the winner of FutureStars 2021.

We talked to Jayme Kelmigian, the show’s director/producer, about the upcoming show.

Bottom line: How is FutureStars 2021 going to work?
FutureStars 2021 is going to be live-streamed on Saturday, March 13 at 7 p.m. on the showtix4u.com platform. The main portion of the show will be pre-recorded content up until the hosts say, “And the top five performances are …”

The students will not know the top five performances until the night of the live-stream when the audience finds out as well. After the top five are announced, the audience will get to vote online for their favorite act of the five. The cast of the show will then join the audience live to announce the winner. It should be an exciting evening!

Was there ever a time you were tempted to just let this year slide?
No. There was never a time I felt we should let this year slide. There are many things we cannot do safely during this pandemic. Our students have had numerous cancelled events and disappointments. If there was a way to safely produce FutureStars, we wanted to figure it out and make it happen.

Beyond the obvious differences, compare directing/producing this show to previous years.
This year, communication was more important than ever. There are so many moving parts to FutureStars: the competing students, the RisingStars group, the hosts, the band, the editing team, the judges, the coaches, etc. When we are in person, it’s very easy to check in with everyone when you are seeing them 3-4 days a week. In the virtual format, it is essential that I am constantly reaching out to check in with these various groups to ensure they have what they need, they know what needs to be done, and I know what needs to get done. This year’s show required many hours of Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, and many sticky notes filled with to-do’s—but I’m confident that it was all worth it.

What worries you most about the upcoming virtual show?
I am most nervous about the voting and the actual live portion of the event when the hosts announce the winner of FutureStars 2021. I am a seasoned live theater director and producer – but not in the virtual realm. We ran a streaming test and we seemed to work out all of the kinks. Now, I can only trust that the technology will work out and that our planning and preparation will pay off.

How many kids are competing, and what is the range of talents?
We have 20 competing students this year, each performing one solo. In years past, students performed in multiple numbers and only a handful of students had solos. We made the decision to cast only juniors and seniors in the competing portion of the show and we elected to do solos only in the virtual format. Several students will accompany themselves on guitar or piano.

Ninth and Tenth graders were eligible for our non-competing vocal group, the RisingStars. This group rehearsed two medleys virtually – with multiple vocal parts – under the leadership of John Bogdan. Our sound engineer, Patrick Schrock, and our videographer Amnon Steiner, will work to edit the thirteen individual recorded parts into a large ensemble number. Editing these numbers is a very complicated and time-consuming process. We are very lucky to work with these professionals.

Are there kids who aren’t competing because their act can’t be done on Zoom?
We were given permission to film the singers on stage in Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High School with strict safety protocols. We gave students the choice as to whether they wanted to record onstage or if they were more comfortable recording at home. They all chose to record onstage – except for one of our competing students because she is currently in Arizona, so she recorded her number at home.

Our talented band of professionals, led by music director Billy Harrington, pre-recorded the accompaniment tracks for the singers. Our sound engineer mixed these tracks so that our singers could record onstage alone with the sound of the band in the monitors – even if they weren’t physically in the space.

Are there any advantages to live streaming a talent show?
One advantage of producing the show virtually is that the students were able to do three takes of their songs for the recording. When we are live, you get one shot.

How have the kids who may have been looking forward to getting out on stage again—or for the first time—reacted to competing virtually?
The students and families have been gracious and supportive that PTG is attempting to offer opportunities – even if they look and feel very different than years past. I’m sure there are many disappointments with not being able to participate in the traditional form of the competition but I do hope there are positive memories created from this event.

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor