A Reminiscent Reunion

Bystander 9/11 Bares Witness


Bree Jansen- Graphic

Lompoc High Theatre Presents: Bystander 9/11… Filmed and up on YouTube! Visit the Lompoc High Theatre Arts page!

Bree Jansen

Lompoc High Theatre Arts has debuted in their first in-person performance since 2019. They’ve started the year off with the filmed version of the play, BYSTANDER 9/11. It acknowledges the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001. Bystander 9/11 is written by Meron Langsner, and was produced and arranged by YouthPlays (www.YouthPLAYS.com). The act was originally recorded on Zoom with the Advanced Musical Theatre class during the 2020-2021 school year, but was revised to fit a new cast on short notice for the beginning of the 21-22 school year. With a cast of thirteen students, five crew members, and directors (Mrs. Sarah Barthel, Ms. Bree Jansen, and Ms. Sarah Santiago): they made the play possible in spite of current conditions. Jansen and Santiago have applied their skills with video and sound editing honed from Little Shop of Horrors (2021) onto Bystander 9/11. 

A synopsis of the production is as YouthPLAYS describes, “Drawn from the experiences of New Yorkers during the September 11th attacks and their immediate aftermath, Bystander 9/11 bears witness. Its journey begins in the subways underneath the Twin Towers and continues in a changed world as it explores what it means to be a New Yorker, to be American and to be human in the midst of world-shattering historical events.” This play was a heartful ode to the events that occurred and includes how the average New Yorker experienced a disaster that is now a huge part of history.

With this being the first show of the 20-21 school year, the directors provided a enthusiastic response. Bystander 9/11 is the first ever show that has been recorded in the Little Theatre, so it was a new experience for everyone. Santiago comments,It was exciting, mostly because I enjoy being able to help students learn the ropes in the tech den. Last year, the adults had to do all the technical stuff, but it’s more fun to watch students try new things and learn to use the lighting and sound equipment themselves.” She also adds that since this production incorporated streaming and recording, friends and family are able to enjoy our work out of town. She reveals her joy for being able to teach new students about the technical aspects of shows including the lighting and sound board at the booth in the theatre. 

Jansen chimes in, “It felt SO GOOD to be back in the Little Theatre again as my last ‘normal’ night was spent watching our students rehearse in their final dress rehearsal for a performance which never was to be.” Jansen reminisces back on the last performance in the Little Theatre (Matilda, 2020) and expressed how great she felt when returning back for the new year. Although COVID is present, she was confident in the students and technicians that were doing anything to stay safe. 

Barthel was ecstatic to come back and collaborate with the theatre community at Lompoc High. As she says: “It was wonderful being back on stage, working together in person.” Although she felt accomplished from the productions last year, she felt even better to produce this play in person with her cast and crew. Even though this performance wasn’t viewed by a live audience, she felt the community was able to come together, especially with the topic of Bystander 9/11.

Due to this being put together on short notice, the time period of the rehearsal process was limited to a week. Santiago says, “My biggest concern was that the video and sound would be adequate, since this was officially our first time recording a full show in the little theater. We were using old equipment, so I was nervous about the quality. We’ve ordered new equipment, and this was a great learning experience to see how it could all work for future shows.” Santiago had put her trust into Barthel and Jansen as they had been able to pull off their objectives pretty well. With the small time frame, Santiago was concerned about how the show would turn out since it was the first full show being recorded in the Little Theatre. 

Jansen states it was a little hectic since this type of rehearsal was a first for her. She comments, “​It was a little crazy! I had never been part of a show of that length with that short a rehearsal time, but the actors and technicians did an amazing job.” 

Barthel concludes that this play originally was filmed on Zoom and put together with her Advanced Musical Theatre class recordings and individual monologues. She said that it was going to be a struggle to have it finished in time with the beginning of a new school year. Leading to the final decision of completely re-filming it all in person. She had some casting difficulties as she explains, “Several of the students returned and kept their original parts. Others were unable to participate this fall due to scheduling conflicts with sports or other activities. They graciously let me recast their roles.”  She mentions that even though rehearsals only consisted of one read through and two full rehearsals before filming, everyone was committed to the production and making it the best it could be. She adds that given the time constraint she would rather have the actors focus on the content of the lines to show more emotion and the heaviness of the words than to memorize them without any sentiment.

Ending with the directors’ thoughts, they overall thought the show went well and they received heartwarming comments. Santiago and Barthel both end off their statements by remembering the events of 9/11 and honoring what had happened. Santiago answers, “I think the show turned out just as we had planned. The kids did an amazing job, and Jansen did a great job with the video editing. We learned a lot, and our shows will start to look and sound better and better. We received a lot of heartfelt feedback from those who watched.” Santiago compliments how well the show wrapped up and the positive response that came with it and how she had learned from this show. She ends it off by saying, “I hope the audience found it to be a good reminder of how united our country used to feel after 9/11 occurred. I like that we have shows that bring people together and remind us about the power of teamwork.” 

While Santiago had felt the positive effects from the start to finish of the production, Jansen and Barthel had faced some difficulties nearing the final pieces of the show. Jansen asserts, “I think the filming went really well and the actors and technicians performed the best they possibly could. Editing it in one day was a little disconcerting and YouTube gave me trouble in uploading the video but in the end it was all worth it.” Even though Jansen had some roadblocks along the way, her general experience was the best that it could be. 

Barthel had the same thoughts commenting, “​On the evening of September 10, Mrs. Jansen was having trouble getting the video to save in a format that would allow it to be uploaded. She did all of our video editing last year so we didn’t expect it to be a problem, but some settings were off so it gave us a scare. She finally figured out what was wrong and got it to upload in the early afternoon of 9/11.” Barthel was anxious that the video wasn’t able to be uploaded on time considering the technical difficulties along with it. She also adds, “That evening, my family and I watched the show together as a way to commemorate the events of that tragic day 20 years ago. I had several family members who live in other cities and states that also watched it and said they appreciated seeing Lompoc High students take the time to stop, remember, and honor what happened that day. Pausing to reflect on things from our collective past is powerful, even if we haven’t lived through the events ourselves.” 

To watch BYSTANDER 9/11, it is available on the Lompoc High Theatre Arts YouTube where the show will stay up indefinitely! To donate and help support the Theatre Arts program, visit their website www.lompochightheatrearts.org.