By LINDSEY BROWN
UMW Theatre has decided that despite the COVID-19 virus, the show must go on– digitally that is. Their production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” will be performed online.
According to Gregg Stull, the head of the theatre department, “The good news is that ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is not cancelled. We will be performing it online. The date is yet to be determined, but the cast has been rehearsing online for the last 10 days in order to bring the show to opening.”
While this was a tough decision for the University to make, the professors of the theatre department stand behind the decision.
“The UMW administration is exercising extraordinary leadership in uncertain times, making every decision from the vantage of keeping our entire campus community safe and healthy. This was a difficult and heartbreaking decision for everyone at UMW, but I know we are doing exactly what we need to be doing,” said Stull.
Michael Benson, a professor in the theatre department, explained what we are all going through in a great way. “Words like ‘school’ and ‘theatre’ and ‘church’ have double meanings; one meaning refers to the physical structure, while the other meaning refers to the community that gathers in those structures. In all cases, if you remove the building, the community still remains. The same is true now. We still gather as a university, just in a different way.”
Classes are still in session online, and professors are doing all they can to make sure each student is able to finish the semester strong. However, since theatre is so hands-on, the change is particularly challenging for theatre students. It’s especially difficult for the seniors as many of them were working on the show as their senior project.
“Because a significant portion of the senior project involves research, analysis, journaling and documentation of the process, this continues. Now that we have transitioned to a different performance medium, their project takes on an added dimension,” said Stull. Professors have had to adapt to the online course structure.
“I’ve created a ‘Bob Ross’ video for my scene painting students on marbling techniques for the stage, and will be making several more throughout the semester, which will essentially keep us on track with the original syllabus,” said Benson.
“I’m using Canvas to deliver quizzes and exams. I’m advising students using Zoom, Skype and even phone calls for the students who don’t have internet. I’m holding online reviews for my classes using YouTube Live, and answering questions students type into the comments section in real time. I’m polling students using BluePulse to see what methods are effective or what materials they have on hand. I’m switching my delivery style and some of my content. However, the toughest challenge I’m facing is not having student interaction. I miss engaging students in a shared space; I learn more from them than they realize.”
In the history of the UMW Theatre, an entire production has never been cancelled. There have been shows that were postponed because of weather, but never completely cancelled.
The show will be performed from the actor’s homes through Zoom. While the date has yet to be determined, it will be free for anyone who has the link to watch.
The set was almost done before the school went online and production stopped. According to the shop foreman of Klein Theatre, Kenny Horning, “we have not done anything to the set currently. We plan on later in the semester to make a video montage with lights, music etc. to post online to our patrons, alumni and colleagues to close out the ’19-20 theatre season. I think this would be very fitting, and a nice little bow to finish out the academic year. After this happens, we’ll figure out when we’ll strike the set.” The exact date for the show has not been determined as of yet.
However, senior theatre major Kassie Bender is excited to see what happens with the show.
“I think success is in the way that you look at it. It isn’t going to be like any other show I or anyone else has put on. It’s definitely going to deserve its own category in theatrical terms, but I think that’s what will make it great. Theatre is about thinking outside the box and being creative and we’re doing just that.”