Theatre department adapts to keep performances ongoing during COVID-19 pandemic

By Megan Loock 

Elm Staff Writer

The seats of Decker and Tawes Theatres will be empty this semester as theatrical productions shift from the physical stage onto a digital one. 

All in-person performances were cancelled last March after students were sent home for the remainder of the spring semester due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

However, as these uncertain times continue to shape how students interact with each other virtually, the students of the Department of Theatre and Dance have used it to their advantage and challenged their creative abilities.

“We’re doing a real mix of things,” Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Theatre Department Laura Eckelman said.

According to Eckelman, the current state of in-person performances is uncertain causing many students to rethink the goals for their projects. 

Many of the productions set to debut this semester are Senior Capstone Experience’s. 

“Some projects have changed very dramatically,” Eckelman said. “Everything that might normally be a production is its own kind of particular challenge.” 

Seniors Caitlin Woods and Miles Cochran’s production has changed dramatically since they first got the approval on their SCE project last spring. 

“Creatively this [“Riders to the Sea”] was our runner up,” Woods said. 

According to Woods, both she and Cochran planned on co-producing a production of “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, but because of the on-going pandemic and the challenges of navigating a digital theatre space, they shifted their efforts onto the 1904 play “Riders to the Sea” by John Millington Synge.

However, despite these challenges, Woods and Cochran are working together to bring a unique theatre experience for their audience. 

As a Theatre major, Cochran will be focusing his SCE on the production’s lighting design. However, as an art/art history minor, he will be bringing the play to life in a “pseudo-museum” installation he will be designing.

“[We’re] completely dismantling the fourth wall and literally inviting the audience on the stage without any actors present,” Cochran said.

Along with this interactive space an audio-play, directed by Woods, will be playing throughout Tawes Theatre for the audience to listen to while they move throughout the installation. 

“I think both of us as artists are interested in deconstructing conventions and being critical about conventions. I don’t think we expected doing it so literally in this way,” Woods said.

“[Rider’s to the Sea] is super specific but it is also universal,” she said. 

As of right now most of the productions his semester will have a virtual aspect. 

“They are all different,” Eckelman said. 

“Riders to the Sea” is set to tentatively debut April 16 and 17. It is currently unknown if students on campus will be able to visit their production set.  

“The big moral for us is we are trying to figure it out as we go. Somethings just aren’t the same on Zoom,” Eckelman said.

There will be two other productions debuting this semester. Senior Victoria Gill’s scenic design SCE will be on Sarah Ruhl’s play “Eurydice” which will be directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Brendan Fox. There will be a virtual reading and a virtual design presentation. 

“[The] Eurydice project is a virtual showing of an imaginary in-person production,” Eckelman said.

“Eurydice” will be live on March 19 at 8pm and will be available to stream March 20 and 21, according to the College’s website. Further details on how to stream the presentation are unknown. 

Additionally, senior Patrick Salerno will co-direct Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” with Professor of Theatre Dale Daigle. Virtual performances will be available April 29 through May 1, according to the College’s website.

To get more information on upcoming productions you can visit

Featured Photo caption: Gibson, which is usually alive with theatre students rehearsing and performing on its many stages, isn’t getting any use now due to COVID-19. Photo by MacKenzie Brady.

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