Spring Theatre Production in Progress Despite Pandemic

Andrew Oslin, Staff Editor

The theatre department is looking forward to having a spring theatre production despite the complications arising from the pandemic. The main difference this year is that it will be composed of contributions from the actors in tandem with student writers and producers. In this way, three different classes will be collaborating to produce something entirely new. “The process that we’re going through right now is just super exciting,” said Chair of Fine Arts and theatre professor Darrell Born. “The sky’s the limit for me, as long as the writers and producers are comfortable about their work being displayed.”

When Born began brainstorming different ways for the production to work around social distancing guidelines with communications professor Dustin Zemel, Ph.D., and creative writing professor Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis, Ph.D., he did not know what to expect. “If we can’t be on stage, and we can’t have an audience, how do we do all these things? How do we bring the work to the students?” he pondered. “Every theatre production is a big deal, every play is a production, but this is a collaboration that’s combining classes.” It brings about the challenge of ensuring that everyone gets an enriching experience from the process. With writers, producers and actors all bringing their contributions to the table, coordination is a must. Of course, it also means that the possibilities are endless.

Another challenge arises with copywriting in regards to showing the production to a viewing audience. “[There are] copyright issues with public domain and theatre productions. [They] don’t include the opportunity for a movie production,” Born said. “[For] most productions that we do, the only reason we’re able to video it is for documentation that we’ve done it, so for me it’s like, how do we work around this?”

Born is optimistic that whatever form the final product takes, the results will be something worth celebrating. “The writers are amazing. This class is super gifted, the writing class, [and] the actors are super good,” he said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have good writing, and we do.”

As for the format, the design it will take on depends on how the students of the three classes end up dividing their projects and deciding which ones they want to focus on. Of course, it will most likely be through Zoom or a similar web format. “I’m hoping to do some sort of unveiling to a theatrical production,” Born explained. “I don’t know how many plays we’ll actually put on, [but] it would make sure that we’re featuring the production crew and the writers.”

Since having a virtual production is such a new development, the question of the style’s longevity is worth considering. “I don’t think actors for stage are necessarily always going to be content being on a video or in this kind of production setting, but I think it’s a wonderful marriage of playwriting, production and theatre that I would love to see continue to evolve and grow,” Born said.

It will be exciting for students to see where the production goes, as art through the pandemic will likely be changed forever.  “The collaborative arts during this time of COVID, they’re just going to be transformed,” he said. “As long as we can find the pedagogical value for our students within this process, I think it’s something worthy of pursuing and continuing.”

It is clear that the professors leading the process and the students providing their creative insight are on track to making something memorable out of the uncertain circumstances. They are putting in the time and patience necessary to forge a compelling production.

 “We’re working hard,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what happens.”

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