As COVID-19 has brought about many challenges for students and educators across the nation, one of the unlikely tasks the Drake Theatre Department faced was adapting to a semi-virtual format for theatre productions. With the essence of connection being a vital part of live theatre, students and faculty were encouraged to re-create this relationship between the actors and audience despite the social gathering restrictions.
Expect the Unexpected
In the fall semester, I directed the one-act show the Bling Ring as a part of the Student-Playwrighting Showcase. The show was recorded, edited, and available for streaming for a period of time following the run of the show that friends and family could view from anywhere because live audiences were restricted. With the addition of masks, the actors had to work even harder on conveying vocal inflection and body expression for their character choices to be understood on camera.
While the entire production team was grateful for the ability to still be producing theatre in a somewhat live format, the shows the Drake Theatre Department produced in the first semester were a definite learning experience for everyone involved, especially with the addition of camera usage.
Get Creative & Learn To Adapt
In preparation for the second semester, the department was able to purchase four camera lenses to use for the productions, Into the Woods and Spunk. The addition of this technology could enhance the audience’s viewing experience by being able to witness closer camera shots of the actors, and on the other hand, changing the approach to the rehearsal and technical rehearsal process. Every design department also had to think about how they may need to change their design element based on the new factor: cameras.
I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to take on the role of Assistant Director for Into The Woods. Throughout the rehearsal process, there was an emphasis on specific blocking and movement to prepare for the addition of multiple camera angles. The actors had to readjust some of their thinking, and learn to let go of “playing out to an audience.” In the end, the show was live-streamed from one theatre to another with a limited capacity of friends and family in attendance.
In conjunction with my love of film, I was overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to work as the director during the actual run of the show by calling the camera cues. Without the need for adaptation to a new “type” of theatre, I along with some of my other peers with an interest in film, wouldn’t have the ability to gain knowledge on filming aspects and video production.