Theatre’s finding COVID friendly ways to perform for their audience

by Lauryn Chavez | sports editor

Because protocols on gathering during COVID are strict, theater has had to adapt from their traditional showing of their plays. For the showing of “Much Ado About Nothing,” Co-Theatre Director, Megan Thompson, experienced changes in their rehearsals, auditions, their performances, and the seating arrangements for the audience.

“For ‘Much Ado about nothing’ we performed outdoors instead of inside, which is in itself safer. We also had students fill out a COVID screening form before they came to campus or rehearsal everyday, which was basically asking them if they had any COVID symptoms, and they had to verify if they did not,” Thompson said. “We had students wear masks 90% of the time. They were able to bring the mask down if they said lines and then bring them back up, but anytime they got within eight feet of another student they always had to have their mask on.”

Theater followed COVID protocols strictly, and even took extra precautions so that cast members would be safer.

“We reminded them and encouraged them to have social distancing in place when they were not on stage as well. In addition too, we had hand sanitizer backstage, hand sanitizer on the tech table, we sanitized props in between usage, and when we had our audience, because we were able to have a live audience, they had markers eight feet apart on the ground and they had to stay within those sections so that they would socially distance watching the show as well as keep their masks on,” Thompson said.

The audience members as well as the cast members had to follow COVID procedures while “Much Ado about nothing” was performed.

“We utilized the Johnson Courtyard instead of the auditorium. There was limited seating, but it was ‘picnic in the park’ themed, and really fun! Everyone brought their own lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the show,” cast member Sierra DiStefano said.

Theater adapted with the location of their performance to ensure that the show could be enjoyed by as many as possible, and even sold out on all nights of the showings.

“It was very different because we were rehearsing outside as well so we had to bring our sound system, all of our props, any furniture we were using, all of it with us and set it up and break it down at the end of every rehearsal,” Thompson said. “In addition we were rehearsing in the courtyard, which means that for the first thirty minutes of rehearsal everyone that was waiting for a bus was also in the courtyard, which was challenging. And the band who was practicing on the band pad is very loud, so sometimes it was very difficult to hear our actors over the tubas or the trombones.”

The transition from rehearsing inside to outside came with struggles for theater. They have their own space in the auditorium and backstage areas that they couldn’t utilize in their efforts to keep students safe.

“We had to keep as much distance as possible on stage, and it was hard because it feels natural to get close to your castmates while acting,” DiStefano said.

Cast members had to defy their instincts while performing to keep distance from their other cast members to stay COVID friendly. 

“It’s really tough when you don’t see everyone everyday in person, so when you’re trying to remind them to audition it’s tough when you don’t see them face to face everyday. And it’s tough to try on costumes because I don’t have them in class where I can just be like ‘Oh hey go try on this costume really fast,’” Thompson said. “It’s just everything takes so much more thought and consideration and planning in order to make it work within the confines of COVID. You have to plan exactly who needs to be there because you can’t have anybody extra, you have to make sure that you allot time for things that you just kind of do naturally because it doesn’t happen naturally.”

The new AB schedule that students have this year is also stressful for theater teachers, as they can’t see their students daily and remind them about important tasks they need to do.

“Not seeing everyone everyday in a normal way is so so stressful because I wanna be able to look at that person in the face and say ‘Hey did you memorize that monologue?’ but I don’t see them so we have this very formal thing where I have to email them and then they have to email me back, and it’s not as fluid and not as personal,” Thompson said.

To keep with their creative showing ideas, the next play will be filmed and audience members can see it as a drive-in style movie. This will hopefully eliminate some struggles of performing live for both the cast members and the theater directors.

“We just got approval to do Annie, we’re filming it from April 9th to 11th. We’re going to show it as a drive-in movie, so we’re going to rent a big inflatable screen, we’re going to have a sound system and you’re going to be able to drive into either the band pad or the student parking lot and watch Annie as a drive in movie. I’m hoping that we sell out because it’s going to be limited by how many cars we can get onto the parking lot,” Thompson said.

Annie will be shown from April 9-11 and pricing will be per car attending, which encourages the audience to bring along friends or family to watch “Annie”.

“We’re charging per car, and our current thought is $25 per car, but you can fit 6 people in a car so think about it that way. And I think we said that we can only have 100 cars, maybe more, so I’m hoping that it’s well attended,” Thompson said. I think that everybody’s looking for something to do, and something safe to do and this is something that is about the safest thing you can do.” 

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