Law Show 2021 goes on despite pandemic restrictions

Student producers devise a brilliant workaround with many moving parts

Helen Metella - 08 February 2021

If your Faculty of Law experience at the University of Alberta included staging Law Show you are definitely a multi-talented high-achiever, but those doing it during the COVID-19 pandemic are close to rockstars.

This year, students are not just producing a 90-minute musical spoof while keeping up with demanding legal studies, they’re conducting a logistical operation as complex as a concert tour.

Since January 25, student volunteers in three cities (Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver) have been delivering seven film kits containing cameras, tripods, microphones, greenscreens, metronomes and tuners to the homes of Law Show’s cast members and musicians, then picking them up 48-hours later for transport to others in the cast.

Individual cast members and musicians self-film their scenes or songs within each two-day window, and then prep for their next scene as the camera kits cycle round the cities with pinpoint timing that continues through February 13.

Scooby Doo

Fifty-five people are involved in a theatrical capacity for this year’s spoof, titled Scooby Doo: The Long Paw of the Law.

“There are lots of characters filming lots of scenes,” said Beth Jonah, executive producer of the show. “We’re hoping we have good self-tapes and we have hired a team of professional editors to make it look great.”

Some participants, such as its directors of acting, Richard Copeland and Gill Hardy-Legault, had both theatre and film experience prior to law school, so with their counsel it was decided to dispense with theatrical blocking. Instead, the actors are creating their scene within one static camera frame, and a narrator will read witty stage directions for the edited version.

The final decision to go ahead with Law Show occurred only in November, after U of A officials nixed the students’ proposal to shoot it on stage, without an audience.

While that meant a tsunami of last-minute scheduling, Jonah, plus co-executive directors Samantha Fraughton and Courtney Yoo, were not about to interrupt a tradition now 26 years old. Nor did they want to disappoint Terra Centre, a program for pregnant teenagers, teen parents and their babies that’s the charity that Law Show has pledged to support from 2021 to 2023.

“The skills required to put on this production are not that different from the skills needed to succeed in law school,” said Fraughton. “It requires teamwork, dedication and flexibility. And this is a time when we need the community of Law Show more than ever because we’re all (studying) apart. It allows us to come together visually and take away the stress of these times.”

The upside

Challenges abounded nonetheless. Participants had to be recruited before the format was decided, virtual rehearsals faced technical glitches, and the silent auction that makes the event a successful fundraiser was rejigged for content and format. However, sponsors from Alberta’s legal community were generous, with donations to Law Show 2021 surpassing its goals.

”One of the most heartwarming moments for me was an incredible donation from the Class of 2020 to Law Show,” said Jonah. “Everyone is rooting for its success.”

Additionally, the producers hope that alumni all over the world who retain a fondness for Law Show will become part of the virtual audience this year.

Jonah says mounting Law Show 2021 has taught perseverance. Added Fraughton, “Having other people willing to give everything a try, with inventiveness and innovation that’s been exceptional, has been amazing. And that’s an important skill for being lawyers, too.”

Ticket details

Purchase tickets through Law Show 2021’s website. The show will be released via a website link at 7:00 p.m. MT, February 26 and will be viewable until March 12.

The all-important virtual silent auction for charity runs February 22 to 28. Links to its Givergy platform will also be on the website.