Drama department goes virtual with ‘Technical Difficulties’

Keianah Weakland

The spotlight hasn’t shone in the Sandy High auditorium for over a year, but the Drama department made their debut virtually this year. After the ups and downs of the Coronavirus restrictions, the Drama department found a way to restore some normalcy this year. 

The department posted a virtual performance on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. called “SHS Virtual Insanity,” where students performed a collection of three one-act plays called “Technical Difficulties.” The acts have all been written within the last year and each had a two to three person cast. 

“They deal with the strangeness, the comedy, and the struggle of connecting in a virtual world. Each one is a little funny, a little strange, and a little sad. The actors involved have done an incredible job of creating interesting characters and engaging interactions, even though they have never been able to rehearse in the same room,” Drama teacher and Program Director Colin Murray said.

When deciding which piece to perform, Murray chose something that would make sense to be viewed over a streaming platform. Since rehearsals started in March, it was difficult to know what regulations would be in place months down the road. Because of Covid-19, it was uncertain if the play would be in-person or done virtually.

“As for what it has been like rehearsing over Google Meets, it has been a different experience than traditional rehearsals, but many of the same considerations that we would have in-person are still present over virtual platforms. The actors still need to worry about articulation and physical movement,” Murray said. 

Transitioning from in-person to virtual rehearsals has many impacts on both the students and teachers. But Murray has made sure to continue teaching the importance of basic skills, as if the students were still on stage. 

“I’m used to being on a stage being fully aware of what I’m saying, what I’m doing, what line is next, who does what. Virtual rehearsals feel weird to be quite frank. You have no audience, just a pinprick of light to talk to and you don’t have any emotional reaction to anything you say. It seems empty and almost like you’re talking to yourself,” freshman Evelyn Lawyer said.

Due to having a virtual performance, there aren’t any students doing lighting, sound, backdrops, costumes, or makeup. Because of this, the actors were in charge of their own costumes, make up, lighting and set. The cast was made up of seven students who acted in the three one-acts and one student who was in charge of editing the video of the performances, which was available on YouTube for about two weeks after the one opening performance. 

“It’s definitely different rehearsing virtually, it’s a bit harder. I’m nervous for in-person because then we won’t get multiple takes, but I’m excited to have an audience, it’s strange just doing it while staring at a screen,” sophomore Macy Phillips said.

Many of the cast members were excited that their family and friends were able to view their performances since they were posted online. When in-person performances occur, it is difficult for everyone to take the time to watch the play live. Virtual performances allow for people to view even from long distances.

“I’m excited to be able to show my family the video of the play because a lot of the time there will be certain people I want to go but can’t make it. Now I have a way to share it with everyone,” Lawyer said.

On the other hand, having the video open to the public raises concerns for some students. It isn’t very often actors are able to watch their performances on repeat. 

“Since the final performances were actually recorded, I have a different anxiety about sharing the performances. While I am not going to be doing it live, I’m very nervous about having to watch it myself, since I am very self-critical. I’m excited that they are being recorded, though, because I will be able to watch everyone else’s shows and share my performance to those who cannot make it to the original showing,” senior Hanna Russell said.

Students also found it more difficult to connect to their characters when rehearsing virtually. “I have been able to connect with Eve on a lighter level than some of the other characters I’ve played in the past,” Russell said. Despite this, the cast was able to connect to the characters’ conflicts through Covid-19.

“I related to my character on some levels. It was easy to connect to her because we were going through a lot of the same things. It was a little difficult to get to know my character on a deeper level because I didn’t have that in-person experience with my scene partner to help establish their relationship,” freshman Jenna Wallace said.

Since the cast found it difficult to connect to their characters, choosing a costume to help convey their characters persona was very important.

“I don’t feel like I knew my character that well. When in-person, I actually feel like someone else. I sort of did this time virtually, but not as much. I could tell she had an emo sort of vibe to her hence my outfit during the play and I got a sense of her thought process and how she reacts to situations. I just dont think I knew her super well to a point where I was her. I just sort of knew her and that was really hard for me,” Lawyer said.

Despite these challenges, the actors continued to try to connect to their characters and the other actors in the play. 

“We have been working a lot on trying to make the connection between the actors feel conversational. In the end, acting is about listening and responding truthfully, which doesn’t change if you are acting with a person or with a floating head on a video screen,” Murray said.

Although these one-acts were not performed live due to Covid-19 restrictions, there is a possibility of a live performance on stage in the future with health regulations weighing heavily on that decision. This includes the audience size, how the audience will attend, and when it could take place. “I really hope anyone can enjoy the work we put together even through the boundaries we had to face,” Lawyer said.

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