In March 2020, students at the Chicago Academy for the Arts were preparing for their upcoming Media Arts Showcase where students would exhibit the creative projects they were working on to the public. Due to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students were forced to put their show on hold. Now, a long two years later, students in the high school’s media arts program are premiering their television show pilot, Stitched Together, on the big screen at Music Box Theatre.
About a group of students in a knitting club at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) high school, the comedic pilot is one that explores the lengths one would go to ensure they’d be accepted into the best colleges and universities. The students intentionally chose an environment opposite of their own arts school as a fun twist.
“For quarter three, to sort of celebrate that we were all back together and in the building, we set aside that entire quarter to write, produce, film, etc., a collaborative project,” said Jessi Meliza, faculty advisor of the media arts program. “We thought, ‘What better way to pilot a program than to watch a bunch of pilots, talk about pilots, talk about television form, and then also come together to really produce something as a whole group?’”
The class gained inspiration from comedic sitcoms like Community and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a diversion from the more regular dramatic and horror-aligned projects the school had showcased in the past. Students split into a writers’ room and pre-production team during the beginning stages of creation.
“A good portion of time was spent waiting and getting ideas from the writing room to take into account and envision what the pilot episode would look like,” explained senior student Gabe Bell. “Myself and three other students helped to add more jokes to the pilot script because we thought some plotlines seemed like they could be fine-tuned and more punchy.”
From there, the group of about 14 students, along with other people in the Chicago Academy for the Arts community, came together to shoot the pilot in about a week’s time. The school’s spring showcase in 2019 took place at the Music Box for the first time, in a smaller theater.
“It was so sold out that we had people sitting on the floor, we had people in the hallways cramming in,” said Meliza. “The last couple of years we’ve been having shows at home, we had our show on campus this [school] year, but this is going to be the grand return to our [spring] show.”
This week, the students’ pilot will debut in Music Box’s larger theater for the first time.
Media Arts Spring Festival, Wednesday, March 30, 7 PM; Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport; $16 adults, $9.71 students.
“There is a certain quality about working with everyone in the department that I feel should be valued because it is fun to get everyone together and work on one consolidated project,” said Bell. Meliza added, “It’s really exciting for us because we are all huge fans of going to see the movies, and going to sit and see that big screen. [Music Box] is a Chicago classic, so this is a grand return to an old tradition.”