The show is not over, it is just the beginning

SPU’s theatre department leaps its first hurdle, giving hope for this year’s season

Micah Lim, Staff Reporter

Theatre is the art of performance. Through spoken word, acting, and stage design, the cumulative effort of a production moves an audience to emotion. Unfortunately, in a time such as the global pandemic, theatrics have been severely undercut. 

Professor Richard Lorig, chair of Seattle Pacific University’s theatre department, expresses the hardship COVID-19 has brought upon the theatre department’s community. 

“In terms of the spirit of making art, it’s taken a big hit. It’s been really difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that we cannot be together communally creating art,” Lorig said over Zoom. “The heart of our training here at SPU is collaboration with each other. There’s a certain amount of it that gets lost when you can’t be in-person.”

Since the start of the quarter, SPU’s performing arts have gone to great measures to maintain community and creatively produce theatrical content for the rest of the year. 

Professor Candance Vance, head of performance, notions that art is not without adaptability, regardless of the circumstances. 

“Artistic flexibility is mandatory for creative survival right now,” said Vance over Zoom. 

The cancellation of shows during last spring quarter was a call to action. Something had to be done to keep theatre going.

“Faculty and students together were like ‘what can we do?’. If this is going to be our reality right now, students only get one shot at college, so what can we do to make it the best it can be,” said Vance. 

As part of the department’s Theatre Reimagined Program, The Shakers Online Workshop was hosted Monday, Nov 9, to compensate for last year’s cancelled production of Arlene Hutton’s “The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month”. 

Minutes before the event, Sophie Saxton, theatre major and student employee for the department, gave a quick rundown of the event.

“Tonight is a staged reading. ‘Staged’ as in it’s over an online platform. About ninety percent of the cast for last year’s show have accepted to do this and what they’re gonna do is read the show as if they are the characters,” Saxon said over Zoom. 

This event is unique in that both the playwright, Arlene Hutton, and director, Marianne Savell, have actively been a part of the production process to enhance and perfect the performance. 

 “It’s so cool that our students are able to work with both Marianne and Arlene and see firsthand the  relationship between playwright and director on a new work. It’s a unique niche,” said Vance. 

For the playwright, this was an opportunity for her to closely examine the play and perfect aspects of it throughout its rolling world premiere. Saxton stated that SPU’s performance was incredibly helpful in achieving this result. 

“Through this process it’s given her the opportunity to reconsider choices she may have made and possibly rewrite and rework it. That’s why it’s a ‘workshop’,” said Saxton. 

The performance was a success that fulfilled many of the disheartened feelings COVID-19 had left on the actors and actresses, especially SPU alums who had participated in the reading. In anticipation of the rest of this year’s season, The Shakers Online Workshop has given confidence to future events, such as the The Midsummer Project and Devised Play. 

“For our winter show, we’re bringing in director CT Doescher and he will be leading the Midsummer Project. He’s going to be doing a workshop for students who want to be more familiar with working with Shakespearian texts” said professor Lorig. 

The process will be tackling questions of identity within A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the result of a three week casting and rehearsing process will be the production of online performances. 

“We’re gonna do three episodes to explore questions of identity,” said Vance. “There will be performances over Zoom of these scenes and then a curated discussion.”

What would have been a staged performance of Midsummer has been adapted to tackle identity, a theme many students have had to tackle during quarantine. 

However, in truly characterizing the global pandemic, forums for the Devised Play Project have been hosted this fall to compile the emotions, discourse, and opinions students hold towards the global pandemic. 

“This is such an unusual situation and the material doesn’t necessarily exist to facilitate what we want to do for performance that is mostly online, so we’re creating our own,” said Lorig. 

Professor Vance will be synthesizing the active discussions within the forums into a script that is expected to be written and performed by spring quarter.  

“What’s [students] experience of life in 2020?” asked Vance. “As you can imagine, based on different individuals, there’s a variety of answers and we’re using all that. We’re culling all the research together right now.”

As a student that is part of this, Saxton expresses that the process is very exciting. 

“As a senior, I get to be part of something that is being created from nothing. This is coming from SPU students and their influence with the designers of SPU staff and faculty. Whatever we come up with in the end we can know that that was all us,” said Saxton. 

In the success of the Shaker’s Workshop and planning for Winter and Spring events, SPU’s theatre department has proved that a fruitful season is well within reach. Creativity and ambition from the students, staff, and faculty have amounted to a collective hope. 

“One thing that’s so exciting about theatre is that it’s a collaborative art form,” said Vance. “I bring my piece, you bring your piece, they bring their piece, and the sum of all that together is greater than anything we could have done individually.”