Theatre News and Updates
Read on to find out what’s happening with Earlham theatre.
Socially Distanced Theatre: Making Art While Wearing Masks
November 20, 2020
In order to keep our campus community safe, the Earlham College academic calendar was restructured for this year to create a pair of seven-week terms for each semester. Most students took just two courses per term, resulting in a lower number of interactions with others throughout the academic day. That also made it easier to augment courses with online instruction as needed (and would minimize disruption if it became necessary to move exclusively to on-line learning due to new developments with COVID-19). The great news is that Earlham students, faculty, and staff all made the choices necessary to keep each other safe through the fall semester — we have successfully completed the semester as originally planned!
As theatre students attended face to face (well, mask to mask) classes during the first seven weeks, we all practiced health & safety protocols and developed social distancing habits for Design 1 as well as safe staging standards for scene work in the Foundations of Acting and Directing courses. We also experimented with on-line rehearsals and, when an acting student was quarantined while waiting for test results, explored how a story could be told with one character on stage and the other present via a laptop or large screen on an AV cart. The joy in being able to play with one another in a (safely) shared space lifted spirits and led to a lot of fun and creative work that was shared through a ten minute play showcase.
During the second seven weeks, students involved in the Theatre Production Company course collaborated in the construction and rehearsal of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn. The production concept was developed so that it makes sense for characters in the world of the play to wear masks and practice social distancing for the first two acts. And then for the third act, which takes place 75 years later, design choices were made so that the characters wear stylized masks for the musical play within the play. The last piece of the “how can we tell this story safely?” puzzle was how to handle the music. Because we know that the virus is spread through choral singing, we decided to develop the second act music montage with soloists (wearing masks) safely staged in different areas and to pre-record the third act music in a recording studio where we could safely separate musicians and singers and record just a few tracks at a time. There were two bonus learning opportunities as a result of these choices: practical experience working in a recording studio environment and exploration of mask work and the stylized movement necessary for characters on stage to “articulate” the pre-recorded songs in a way that engages the audience and clarifies the story.
Socially distanced performances this fall were limited to members of the Earlham community — creating an “Earlham bubble” is a significant part of what has kept the community safe and healthy. In accordance with college policy, all students, faculty, and staff were tested throughout the semester and responded to a daily COVID self-assessment. Theatre personnel also had their temperatures taken as they arrived for each rehearsal and were tested again just before the show opened. Because there were only a limited number of seats available in Runyan Center’s Wilkinson Theatre where the actors were performing live, there was also a closed circuit live stream to Goddard Auditorium in Carpenter Hall across campus (where there were also a limited number of seats available.)
We are so crazy proud of our students! Not only did they keep each other healthy and safe by making smart personal choices each day… they were also vigilant, responsible, communicative, flexible, and innovative as circumstances changed and new solutions were discovered. And they delivered a beautiful, theatrical production of a dark comedy that celebrates how storytelling creates community and community creates resilience!
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
The plan for the spring semester is similar to what we did this fall. There will be a virtual Senior Capstone class during the January intensive. Then for the first seven weeks we’ve scheduled face-to-face classes for Acting Styles, Directing 2, Trends in Western Theatre History, and Drawing & Rendering Designs; there will also be an on-line Introduction to Theatre course.
During the second seven weeks students can take an online Playwriting course and/or the Theatre Production Company course which will produce Rotten Illusions by Brianna Miller (EC 2021) and two or three short plays by Samuel Beckett. Rotten Illusions won the 2019 Janica Zuck Richards Memorial Award for the Best One-Act Play and we are grateful that Brianna has granted permission for us to share her play virtually — so stay tuned for information about how you can “attend” a performance if you are not part of the daily campus community.
The theatre is a gathering place in which shared experience creates a unique sense of community… we look forward to a time we can all gather in the same space together again. But in the meanwhile, curiosity, creativity, and the power of storytelling will continue to connect us. Even if we have to wear masks and bathe in hand sanitizer.
Rehearsals Begin for the Book of Will
February 1, 2020
The cast and crew of The Book of Will began rehearsals this past month. The show, which will be playing in the Wilkinson Theatre on March 7th-9th, takes place three years after the death of William Shakespeare. While members of the King’s Men theatre company and their families mourn his absence, companies around town continue to pirate Will’s plays. Appalled by the pirated versions of the plays that threaten to tarnish the Bard’s legacy, Will’s friends set forth on a mission to gather script fragments scattered throughout Elizabethan London into an authorized First Folio, preserving the words and stories that shaped their lives.
All six of the senior theatre majors are involved in this show as a part of their senior capstone experience. Alongside them are a team of students (theatre majors and non-majors) and community members all working together to put the show together come early March. Read the cast list below!
Jordan Wolfe – John Heminges
Cameron Wooddy – Henry Condell
Theo Merback – Richard Burbage, Ben Johnson, Francisco
Matthew Socey – William Jaggard, Bar Patron
Mehmet Ali Schubel – Isaac Jaggard, Barman #2
Mike Martin – Ralph Crane, Barman #1, Horatio
Fawzia Istrabadi – Alice Heminges, Susannah Shakespeare
Micaela Levesque – Rebecca Heminges, Emilia Bassano Lanier, Anne Hathaway
Monica Wuertemberger – Elizabeth Condell
Mickey White – Ed Knight, Bar Patron, Sir Edward Dering
Lucy Fitzgerald – Boy Hamlet, Marcus, Bernardo
Carly Federinko – Crier, Marcellus, Compositor