Woodward Theatre Goes Virtual
With the current situation dictating no mass gatherings for performances on campus, our theatre department has naturally gotten creative, developing a system of mini-productions to allow both students on campus and those working remotely to participate in productions. We talked with Woodward's Director of Theatre Erin Greenway '00 to gain more insight on the process.
Beyond the Gate: What will students be performing for the fall production?
Erin Greenway: Instead of producing a large Fall 1 production, we are performing smaller shows with smaller casts in order to stay safe on stage. Each show is chosen based on the number of students that audition, and if any of the students are currently remote. Currently we are working on finishing the final touches on the virtual recording for "Scenes from Metamorphoses" by Mary Zimmerman, and a play reading of "Dancing at Lughnasa" by Brian Friel. Each show and staged reading are rehearsed for two weeks. We will have a total of 8 mini productions this semester. We are still planning on producing our Fall 2 One Act 'The 39 Steps" by John Buchan with our Performance Ensemble. We hope to be able to attend the GHSA One Act competition this winter with that show.
BTG: What's the plan for how virtual performance will work (what technology will you use, will students perform remotely or together, etc.)?
EG: Students will be able to perform both in person and remote if they choose. We want all students to be able to have the opportunity to still participate in after school theatre even if they cannot be in person. We are recording each show with help from the film and video departments, and currently editing the virtual plays through iMovie.
BTG: What are the main challenges with doing virtual performance vs. in-person?
EG: One of the biggest challenges of a virtual performance is not being able to perform for a live audience. For theatre actors, being able to perform in front of an audience is a huge component of the theatrical experience. The energy in the room is very different without an audience. Also, working with students both in person, and online is challenging when rehearsing. In theatre we "block" out scenes, and when you do not have all the students in person on a certain day, or you have students that are remote, you have to be very creative and flexible when developing the scenes and movement on stage.
BTG: Are there some potential benefits of working virtually?
EG: When you film a performance without an audience, you have the flexibility to reshoot a scene or moment. Typically we would not do this, however with a shorter rehearsal period, and smaller cast, it is much easier to film or refilm scenes so you have a very polished show. Also, since we have chosen to produce smaller shows, students have more opportunities for stage time, and larger roles. Also, this is a great opportunity for students who may be involved with other activities, to come try out for with a limited rehearsal and performance commitment.
BTG: Does it require any different ways of teaching, in terms of performing for a camera vs. an audience?
EG: We still try to maintain the theatrical experience when recording each of our shows. When an audience is watching these performances, we want them to still feel like they are still watching live theatre, and not watching a film. I think the only difference is making sure the students can still be loud enough for the cameras since they are wearing masks and so far apart on stage.
BTG: Any information you can share on auditions for those who might be interested?
EG: Every month we are holding virtual auditions for all students interested in auditioning for each round of shows. Students interested in auditioning need to record themselves performing a 1-2 minute monologue and email their audition to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next round of auditions are on September 14 and 15, however if they cannot audition those days, they have two more opportunities to submit auditions on October 12 and13, and November 9 and 10.