Virtual Theater Performances Bring New Challenges to the Stage

Written by Skye Melcher, Features Editor

While “Tilikum” took on the ongoing challenge of racism and “Night of Noir” combined six studio theatre one-act shows into one entertaining night, the theatre department and its students rose to the challenge of virtually showcasing performances  during a global pandemic.

  Senior theatre major Emily Layt was the dramaturg for “Tilikum” and director of  “After the Day I’ve Had, Death Would Be A Blessing,” from the “Night of Noir,” and she said almost all their shows were virtual this year. 

UCM students, Ashton Burnett and Demetrius Hampton, act virtually together in “After the Day I’ve had, Death Would Be A Blessing.” Image by Skye Melcher

  To follow COVID-19 guidelines and to keep students and faculty safe, all theatre students are recording, stage managing, and from their own space. 

  “One of the biggest struggles about doing a virtual show is just the fact not everyone’s internet connection is stable, not everybody has the same processing speed, I guess, and that not everyone has the right areas or access to put up a green screen, which is one of the things we were definitely troubleshooting with,” Layt said. 

  The theatre department’s staff and students met over Zoom to discuss production and do rehearsals, but the platform itself was an obstacle to overcome.

  “There have been a couple of Zoom theatre things going on throughout the years, but there’s not really a handbook on how to do it and how to do it right,” Sabrina Ortiz, senior musical theatre major and student producer for “Tilikum” said. 

  Adjusting to virtual theatre performances was emotional for many students.  “The truth is we don’t know what’s happening to theatre, and we don’t know when we’ll get the theatre we know back,” Ortiz said. 

  Ortiz talked about the mental strain of not knowing if it will be like this forever and how jaunting this must be for freshmen.

  “Well, it’s not exactly how I pictured or wanted it to be, but it also could have been worse,” freshman theatre major Danny Gage said. “I think I found a middle spot when I came here, so some of the fears have died down.”

  Adjusting to virtual performances requires student actors to adjust their expectations and adapt to new situations and technologies.

  “It was definitely something I had to get used to, and still trying to get used to, because I’m not the biggest fan of the Zoom virtual performances,” Gage said. 

  Being in separate spaces means actors can only see each other through a screen, and that comes with difficulties. 

  “One of the reasons I love acting so much is because I can act with other people and see what they bring to the table, and I loved all my cast in ‘Tilikum,’ but I feel like if we were all together, I think that power and message of a story would have been stronger because you could see us together,” Gage said. 

  Even through COVID-19, the UCM Theatre and Drama department came together to provide the university and community with entertaining performances.