“Riders to the Sea” installation brings theatre back to a live audience

By Megan Loock

Elm Staff Writer

On Friday, April 23, seniors Miles Cochran and Caitlin Woods opened “Riders to the Sea” to the Washington College campus in Tawes Theatre as part of their Senior Capstone Experience. 

According to the program, “‘Riders to the Sea’ [by John Millington Synge] tells the story of an Inis Meán family in the late 19th century grappling with grief of continual loss.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of the productions from the Department of Theatre and Dance have been shifted onto Zoom as audio plays or script readings. 

“Riders to Sea” was initially supposed to debut to the general campus on April 16 and 17, however, this date was pushed back a week “to allow the creative team more time to complete [and] polish their work,” according to the Department of Theatre and Dance. 

“We decided for the sake of our team with the [COVID-19] pandemic going on… we wanted room to breathe,” Woods said.

When The Elm initially asked Cochran and Woods what their vision was for this project, they planned on bringing the play to life as sort of a “pseudo-museum” experience for their audience—and they did exactly that. 

At the beginning of the play, the theatre is dark, and audience members are instructed to walk down a long dark hallway to where pictures of the Irish Moors are hung up on the wall and sounds of the sea play in the background. 

The audience is then led to the set where most of the seats are blocked to encourage the exploration of the set design on the stage. 

While the audience is discouraged from touching the set pieces, they are free to move about the theatre, exploring the mini—but all-encompassing—set that was installed for the audience’s enjoyment as the audio play is played throughout the theatre.

“All of our designers ended up coming to campus at some point so seeing them… having all these conversations online together and see the work that they ended up translating from those conversations come on stage was the best part,” Cochran said. 

Many of the designers were students on campus, however, for tedious jobs, Cochran and Woods called in Mary Sprague ’20 who was responsible for sound design, and guest artist dialect coach Patricia Delorey to help bring the Celtic experience alive.

Some of the set pieces included costumes, designed by junior Erin Jesionowski, of the four main characters — Maurya, portrayed by alumni Kelly Young ’20, Cathleen, portrayed by junior Rachel Jenkins, Nora, portrayed by sophomore Emma Russell, and Bartley, portrayed by freshman Niko Chen — as well as other significant pieces such as the spinning wheel Cathleen uses at the beginning of the play and a graveyard that shows up at the end. 

“[The gravestones] sort of became an image for this play,” Woods said. “Gravestones… are monuments to people that have died… that’s sort of what this play is too, it’s a monument to these people and to this way of life and to this story.” 

The play introduced two other minor characters—freshman Olivia Barry voiced the Stage Directions/One of the Women along with sophomore Zach Papathedorou who voiced Old Man/Another Man.

To help comply with proper social distancing guidelines, only five people were allowed in per showing. All students were required to show the front of house manager the current green badge on their Emocha App before entering the theatre.

Nevertheless, the audience got to experience the play however they wanted to.

“The tools are the crumbs we sort of leave the rest to you,” Woods said. 

“Riders to the Sea” is the only SCE performance that had an in-person presentation this semester.

“It’s really hard making theatre this year [but] it’s something,” Woods said.

“We stayed true to what we wanted to accomplish,” Cochran said. 

In addition to the in-person opportunity, the Department of Theatre and Dance has uploaded a virtual walkthrough of the installation and audio play on the school’s website along with the dramaturg packet made for the production, by senior Will Reid.

The next and last theatrical performance of the semester will be “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” by Qui Nguyen, directed by Professor of Theatre Dale Daigle along with senior Patrick Salerno. “She Kills Monsters” runs through April 29 through May 1 and is a strictly virtual performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *