The show must go on!

TheaterCNU makes alterations due to the pandemic

~Evelyn Davidson, Staff Writer~

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the performing arts have suffered greatly. Productions have been postponed or cancelled and even Broadway has succumbed to the unavoidable challenges that the pandemic creates. This semester, TheaterCNU has decided to highlight the realities of life during a pandemic in their online production of “The Living,” a play about the lives of Londoners during the bubonic plague. 

Vassie Dinstel, a design/technical theater major with a concentration in stage management and a minor in leadership studies with the PLP, is the stage manager for the upcoming zoom production of “The Living.” Dinstel gave insight into what it’s like managing a production during the pandemic and some of the challenges they faced throughout the process.

When it comes to adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, the actors are required to wear masks during rehearsals and in callbacks. For the performance itself, the ten person cast will remain six feet apart and they won’t even be allowed to hand each other props. Dinstel explained that, “we taped out the stage where we have six foot boxes so actors can only act in those certain areas. We have an entire safety protocol. Everybody wipes down.”

Not being able to truly connect is the hardest part for the actors: “You can’t see the connection between actors because online, on the screen, they’re not really there with each other. They’re acting through a computer, and when you’re in person, they have masks on so you can’t see the bottom half of their face,” but Dinstel still wants to “give a good performance that is worthy…I want to elicit the same emotions from the audience and the actors that they would have in person.”

According to Dinstel: “It’s such a learning experience. I’m learning way more than I have in the past. Adaptability and flexibility is amazing in this environment. The theater world requires flexibility and this is really teaching me that.”

When asked what lessons the pandemic has taught her, Dinstel said “Always expect your plan to not work… Flexibility is absolutely mandatory and just keeping a smile on your face and rolling with the punches. Things are not going to work out the way you want. Someone is not going to be able to hear you, someone’s video isn’t going to work, that’s just a given in this time, but keep a smile on your face, keep it positive, don’t compare it to the past… Honestly, I’ve learned positivity and just seeing the best in even the hardest times.”

Dinstel also shared her advice for those who are looking to get involved in TheaterCNU during this time: “You have to be open and you have to be ready to do things you’ve never done… You really have to adapt to what you’re given and you gotta run with it. Try new experiences, jump into that uncomfort zone. It’s going to be a wild time but you’re going to learn so much.”

Other members of TheaterCNU have been searching for a creative outlet beyond the traditional stage. Meredith Puster, a musical theater major with a dance minor, has been spending her time during the pandemic performing at birthday parties, improving on her own performance skills, and finding other ways to share her passion for the arts. 

Puster expressed the frustration that many theater students are feeling right now: “We can’t be together and theater people are very touchy and they’re very social. It’s hard to not be with each other and not be working on things together. We’re so used to all working on everything together and now we’re not. So I know we’ve all really felt the impact of that and that kind of isolation from it,” but she stresses the importance of keeping the theater community alive and even if projects are being cancelled or postponed, “keep working on things with yourself. It helps with yourself to improve things so you feel like you’re not losing touch with the art.”

Puster explained: “I’ve been working on fine tuning things that I struggle with in theater, like I’ve been doing a lot more vocal work, I try to expand my vocal range.” In addition, she talks about how the pandemic has led her to find other platforms, like TikTok, to express herself and connect with others who share her love of performing.

Puster added that the pandemic has shown how meaningful it is to be a part of a close-knit theater community: “We’re seeing now how important it is and what a connection it is. More than ever I think it’s really important right now to have that kind of bond with people.”

Despite the difficulties that the pandemic has created, the members of the TheaterCNU community turned the obstacles they faced into a valuable learning experience and they are determined to continue doing what they love.

“The Living” will perform over Zoom on Oct 30-31 and Nov. 1.

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