Virtual Reunions Can Be Amazing

UWPIAA- Sabine Ehlers ('95C) | Reprinted from "eXtraplatt," German alumni journal - February 2020
June 1, 2021
1991 - 1995, Alumni Experiences, Era Reports, Europe, News

For Cast ’95C, it all started with a June 2020 Zoom call in the middle of the first lockdown and at the intense phase of Black Lives Matter. They had come together to see familiar faces and find a safe space to share and process current events. In the process, they realized they wanted more time together, especially with in-person events being impossible.

Teeeaaaam!

That very day, a reunion team of eight formed with the ambitious goal of organizing a virtual reunion exactly 25 years after they first met in Denver—6 weeks away!!! Luckily, the team proved to have varied talents, with a couple of computer wizards, creative minds, and good trouble-shooters. Facebook chats and weekly Zoom meetings kept them on track with the projects and planning.

Selecting the times

Choosing reunion times proved to be challenging and online time/date calculators can be helpful like https://www.zeitzonenrechner.nettimeanddate.com, and Mobile App – World Time Buddy. Ultimately, most events started in the afternoon in North America, which is evening for Europe. Asia and Australia were at a bit of a time zone disadvantage and their nights were very short.

Let technology help

In order to facilitate all they wanted to do, some videos were pre-recorded, such as an intro by all team members, messages from the General and Assistant Cast Managers as well as an Expression Session which could be watched on the password-protected cast website starting Friday morning.

The program, all conducted via Zoom

By varying start times, the hope was to provide the opportunity for as many people to be able to join as possible.

The ’95C virtual reunion run down looked like this:

  • Friday evening (referenced in European time):
    • Happy Hour (4 hours)
    • A host coordinated the sharing of everyone’s “last 25 years in a nutshell.”
  • Saturday afternoon:
    • Cast Meeting with announcements (30 minutes)
    • Cultural Awareness Workshop (2 hours live). A Mexican castmate, who is a professional in the field, shared a brief presentation and then led a lively and constructive discussion.
  • Saturday evening:
    • Dance Workshop with Festa Humana, a song from their show, for the entire family (1 hour)
    • Happy Hour (6 additional hours), including a cast trivia quiz spontaneously created that evening.
  • Sunday evening:
    • Show Watch Party (1 hour). Their last show video was played using the share screen feature with participants on mute and commenting in the chat.
    • After that, many stayed online until the wee hours of the morning.

Nearly 100 participants and all the feels

Over the course of the weekend, 94 of the 169 cast members participated in at least one session, with at least 60 attending each one. Participants spanned the globe and the discussions ranged from light-hearted fun and reminiscing to deep and meaningful conversations.

From disappointment came opportunity

Considering not everyone has the means to travel for an in-person event, the ability to move the celebration online allowed more cast members the opportunity to participate in a reunion. Everyone came out of the weekend with smiles on their faces and their batteries recharged.

Ideas abound

Other casts celebrated online last year as well. If you are considering hosting a virtual reunion this year—go for it! Start planning now and reach out to others who celebrated online! A rep “spin-off”, a gathering of cast and crew reps from across the eras after era-specific “summits”, was held at the beginning of the month and you may find inspiration from the ideas that were shared at that session by ’95C and others!

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