RIDGEFIELD \u2014 For many elementary school students in town, the fifth-grade musical is a rite of passage \u2014 the last hoorah before moving up to middle school. But in a time when live theater is off limits, continuing that beloved tradition has become a question that Missy Hanlon seeks to answer. Hanlon is the director of Play a Part LLC, which she founded last fall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its mission is to reconfigure live theatrical performances in a safe and socially-distant manner using Zoom, green screens and streaming technology. Most rehearsals are held virtually and each actor\u2019s part is recorded separately to be edited into a final product. This spring, Hanlon is partnering with the PTAs at Branchville and Veteran's Park Elementary Schools in Ridgefield to produce COVID-friendly musicals for the fifth-grade classes. \u201cI asked myself, \u2018what can I do for these kids?\u2019\u201d she said. \u201cFor them to miss [the musical] would\u2019ve been sad, and I\u2019m so thrilled that I can do it.\u201d In February, Play a Part\u2019s first production, \u201cA Midsummer Night\u2019s Zoom,\u201d screened at The Prospector Theater while viewers tuned in from home. The event raised more than $700 to benefit the nonprofit and put the business on the community\u2019s radar. Recently, Tharini Pande, the fifth-grade chair of Branchville\u2019s PTA, reached out to Hanlon to get a tour of Play a Part\u2019s studio while considering possible options for the musical. Each room in Hanlon\u2019s studio is outfitted with HEPA filters and UV light air purifiers, and hand sanitizers are located at the egress. While rehearsing in person, actors wear masks and social distance. This June, Branchville\u2019s fifth-graders will perform \u201cBeauty and the Beast Jr.,\u201d which audiences will stream via ShowTix4U, Hanlon said. Now in its second week of rehearsals, the show saw more than 75 percent of Branchville\u2019s fifth-grade class during auditions, Pande said. \u201cThe kids are absolutely thrilled since they assumed we were not having it, and [those] who had not participated in years past are participating now,\u201d Pande said, noting that the advent of Zoom has quelled some students\u2019 stage fright. \u201cThe parents are grateful that we can bring a little bit of excitement into the fifth grade so not everything is lost with the current circumstances.\u201d Auditions for Veteran Park\u2019s iteration of \u201cAlice\u2019s Adventures in Wonderland\u201d start this week, PTA co-president Denise Schimenti said. Since her daughter participated in Play a Part\u2019s after-school program in the fall, she was able to see its innovation firsthand. \u201cMissy\u2019s team has created this cool, special alternative to traditional live theater,\u201d Schimenti said. \u201cI was overwhelmed by the final product. The level of detail [they use when] editing it all together, you would never know that the kids weren\u2019t in the same room.\u201d Hanlon is holding Zoom and in-person rehearsals with Branchville\u2019s students and plans to rehearse \u201cAlice\u2019s Adventures in Wonderland\u201d in small, in-person groups. The process, she said, has been \u201cpure joy.\u201d \u201cMy cheeks hurt at the end of the Zoom rehearsal because we\u2019re having so much fun,\u201d she added. \u201cWe can be expressive, creative, make bold choices and support each other.\u201d Having an outlet for the performing arts more than a year into the pandemic has been a gratifying experience, Schimenti said. \u201cWe\u2019re excited at Veteran\u2019s Park that we can be one of the schools that\u2019s leveraging this great opportunity in town,\u201d she added. \u201cIt\u2019s something to normalize their year, which has been very abnormal.\u201d The curtains on \u201cAlice in Wonderland\u201d will also go up in June, with a potential screening from The Prospector Theater.