Theatre Department Adjusts “Twelfth Night” Performances to Keep Students, Audiences Safe
MISHAWAKA- Bethel’s Theatre Department put on multiple performances for “Twelfth Night” this weekend. Productions were shown online Nov. 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. The matinee was at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14.
“Twelfth Night” is a Shakespearean comedy that tells the story of a brother and sister who are shipwrecked and separated off the coast of Illyria. The brother, Sebastian, spends his time with a man named Antonio, searching for his sister, Olivia. Olivia, who believes Sebastian is dead, gets caught up in a complicated love triangle.
In order to ensure the safety of students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the theatre department had to use initiative to make sure “Twelfth Night” could still be performed while following Bethel’s regulations and CDC guidelines.
Grace Cole, theatre arts box office manager, said they’ve been working on adjustments as soon as it became apparent a live performance would not be possible.
“We were hoping to be able to do a live performance on stage and things did not work out for that,” Cole said. “So we’re coming up with new plans.”
The initial plan was to limit the audiencenumbers to encourage social distancing,but as numbers of cases grew around campus, this was no longer possible. Changes were implemented, and the performance was put on as a virtual experience.
Deb Swerman, adjunct professor of theatre and the director of "Twelfth night”, published a director‘s note about the play.,
“Our top priority with this production is our students,” Swerman wrote. “We want to give them a theatrical experience that will carry them into their future, regardless of where that may lead them. In these times of creating theatre during a pandemic, that experience comes with flexibility and creativity.”
The change to an all-virtual experience was a big one, and students found themselves learning skills they never expected before. Each actor performed their parts in separate rooms so they could avoid wearing masks. Instead of performing for a physical audience, they were performing for a camera.
The performance, while still live, required students to be innovative in the ways in which they put on a convincing performance. Each actor had their own frame on the screen, and the workers behind the screens arranged them in such a way for the plot to be followed.
Ethan Babler, the actor who played Andrew, said he even put markers up in his room to remind him where to look when addressing a particular actor. And, instead of passing physical objects to fellow actors, objects were passed through frames.
From an actor’s perspective, said Babler, it was a complicated shift, as actors are trained to be hyperaware to everything happening on stage. But for this performance, there was no stage, and the actors were not in the presences of their fellow actors.
Although changes were difficult, actors still received the live acting experience. And this way, everyone could stay safe in their homes and enjoy a performance when not many other performances are being held.