New season, new normal?

SPU theater explores new options due to COVID-19

Keegan Daley, Staff Reporter

The E.E. Bach mainstage theater will not be home to any productions this fall but the theater department is adapting with a variety of online events including Midsummer Episodic Read, a livestream production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”. (Marissa Lordahl)

The performing arts community took a significant hit from COVID-19 because of the very nature of the work. Unable to perform with or for others has forced the hand of theatre programs everywhere to be more creative. On Sept. 26th, SPU’s Theatre Department announced a virtual season they’re calling “Theatre Reimagined” on Instagram.

Communication major Annika Nolen was happy to hear that the department was thinking outside the box.

“I’m really excited that theater has found a way to work even under the current situation, and has reimagined the way that we’re doing theater instead of just saying ‘we’re not doing anything,’” Nolen said via Zoom.

The Instagram post announced that because of COVID-19 restrictions, the theater program is canceling their Winter Quarter and Spring Quarter productions of “Here & Now: Student Directed One-Acts”, “Pride & Prejudice”, and “Cymbeline”.

Instead, they announced six new projects, The Shakers Online Workshop, Midsummer Episodic Read, Devised Play, Play Reading Club, Monologue Mondays, and Friday in the Park with Friends.

The Shakers Online Workshop is a one-night only reading of Arlene Hutton’s play “The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month”, directed by Marianne Savell. The reading will be on Monday, Nov. 9th, via Zoom. Theatre performance major Dami Almon is excited to see what they are going to put together.

“I’m really excited to see what Marianne Savell and Arlene Hutton are going to bring to us, even if it’s not in the same physical space,” Almon said via Zoom.

Midsummer Episodic Read is going to be a live stream production of William Shakespeare’s classic play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Taking place for three weeks into Winter Quarter, this production will have Zoom performances that will be live each Saturday. Director CT Doescher will also lead a virtual two-day Shakespeare acting workshop before the auditions start.

Theatre production major Mackenzie Breda is really looking forward to the new Devised Play, directed by Candace Vance.

“The Devised piece is a piece of theater that collectively as a department, we’re all going to create,” Breda said via Zoom. “It’s going to be a brand new work that we’re going to write, we’re going to produce it, and eventually we’re going to perform it, in the physical space, regardless if we can have an audience or not.”

The Theatre Department is also introducing new clubs as well. The Play Reading Club, run by theatre-studies major, Ivy Malone, will have monthly meetings where they’ll discuss plays of the past several years.

Instead of canceling the production permanently, the theater department will be putting on “The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference this Month” through a one night workshop on Monday, Nov. 9th over zoom. (Marissa Lordahl)

Monologue Mondays and Friday in the Park with Friends, are also new clubs that the department has put together. With Monologue Mondays, students will be able to perform monologues and get their nerves out in front of a group of peers. The group will be meeting in a hybrid format.

Theatre performance major Sydney Coots is excited to have a space where people can be supportive of each other and build relationships, in a time when meeting in person is so limited.

“People are just free to come and have lunch with some theater students, it’s open to absolutely everyone, you don’t have to be a theater person to join us, we just want to keep the community of SPU theater alive and well,” Coots said.

Friday in the Park with Friends happens every Friday at 12:30 pm on the steps of McKinley Hall. 

While the Theatre Department has found ways to adapt to the current situation, students are still missing how theater used to be.

“The dynamic has shifted, we can’t hangout in the theater like we used to. Our main room, the green room, is shut down due to COVID … Hopefully after COVID ends, community building programs like these will continue,” Nolen said.

McKinley Hall, built in 1944, is home to SPU’s theater department, the building is mostly closed this quarter but a few in-person acting classes are still being held. (Marissa Lordahl)

For many students, going to McKinley Hall felt like an escape.

“For my first two years, I lived in one of the on campus dorms and I never really clicked there, but just like going into McKinley, felt like a much more cohesive environment than where I lived,” Almon said.

The pandemic is now entering its eighth month here in the United States, and that begs the question, is online the new normal for the performing arts?

“It’s not ideal and I think that the minute that we are able to go back to being onstage and physically performing in front of audiences, we’re ditching this entire online thing,” Coots said.

Some students hope that digital performance continues.

“The way that we’re reimagining this virtually, opens the door for a lot of people who maybe can’t afford or can’t physically go to the theater. So I hope we don’t go back to how things were normally, I hope with this Theatre Reimagined, we can implement these pieces in the future of theater so that it’s more accessible to people,” Nolen said.

Information will be posted on the SPU Theatre Department website: and on the SPU Theatre Instagram, @sputheatre