Asst. News Editor
Entering the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many shifts in how the Whittier College community handles the upcoming school year — and the Whittier College Theater Department is no exception. Located in the Shannon Center, the Department was supposed to put on their upcoming production of Eurydice as a typical stage show. However, due to the substantial rise of COVID-19 cases — especially in Los Angeles County, with an average of over 15,000 cases per day — Director Jennifer Holmes and Stage Manager Mary Lewis had to change the way the show went through pre-production, production, and post-production completely.
“We are taking this on a week-by-week basis,” said Theatre Director Jennifer Holmes. The pre-production process involves the audition process, staging, and getting the play ready for the big night. However, since the College is not allowing any activities (or students, for that matter) on campus until Feb. 21, this provided a challenge for the cast and crew alike. Fourth-year Mary Lewis stated that “. . . when we first started planning for Eurydice, it was set to be all in-person structure for casting, rehearsals, and performance. However, with the large wave of COVID-19 cases, we were forced to go completely remote. We had to do remote advertising, casting, and now rehearsals.” The audition process, which would normally be in the Shannon Center, was now set over Zoom. Lewis added, “It has definitely been a challenge, but it’s not really surprising. Theatre is always challenging and changing.”
The audition process is not the only part of Eurydice that is on Zoom — so are the rehearsals. These practices, which are normally very hands-on in nature, had to be the complete opposite. Lewis describes the process of this method through a screen, saying that they are “. . . doing breakout rooms and focusing on our table work to bring the story’s intricacies to a broader view to be adapted onstage.” There have been some difficulties with this process: “There are choral lines that have students speaking with each other, which is harder for timing and diction based on which square is lighting up green at a time.” Once they are allowed back to the stage for in-person rehearsals, the cast will have a heavy focus on how their characters move and flow with one another, with all the work the cast and crew put forth on Zoom to then be applied on the stage.
The big night is going to look a lot different than the production originally planned. Lewis talks about how “the earlier intention was to have Eurydice be the first live performance for the school after the [ . . . ] COVID-19 shut down.” But, with the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases over the past months and the second shut down of Whittier College, that is not the case anymore. In order to ensure the safety of not just the cast and crew, but the audience as well, the Whittier College Theater Department has decided to make Eurydice another “hybrid film production,” a striking similarity to the previous show of Antigone, being that “it will be shot over the course of a few days and streamed a few weeks later.”
In order to ensure the utmost safety of everyone working on this production at the time of being filmed, they will be “. . . following L.A. County guidelines concerning masks, testing, and distancing for all rehearsals and performances. Actors will be masked and distanced up until the filming nights of Eurydice. To ensure safety, actors will be tested 72 hours before they go maskless onstage. On top of that, we have cast understudies and swings to fill roles as a precaution to COVID-19 cases,” said Lewis.
Despite everything, Lewis keeps a positive attitude through the difficulties that arise of having remote auditions, rehearsals, and a changed production completely. She stated that, “The students who auditioned really were there to be supportive of this new process format. Being a student myself, it was really cool to see the dedication to another Zoom call on another day of the week when people could just be binging TV. Especially since we just did Antigone mainly in-person [minus its performance], I definitely give credit to the students and staff for remaining engaged and committed with a giant switch to online theatre.”
When discussing the idea of filming Eurydice rather than performing it in front of a live audience, Lewis said that “it is a really great opportunity for students to have a closer experience and camaraderie with the film department that has recently merged with the theatre students. Where we don’t really get the exhilaration and energy of a live audience, we make up for it in film experience and understanding. Rounding out the skills of all actors, designers, and technology students benefits the whole community and department we have built around this show, and others in the past.” Lewis truly is keeping her positive attitude in a time where difficulties are abundant. Lewis regarded the case in a warm sense as well, stating, “These students are dedicated to hours of work to memorize multiple roles with lines, blocking, and emotional intensity. Swing and understudy work is very difficult, especially with full class loads and possible other roles at home. It is truly the work of all the cast, designers, and production that really invigorates people to actually give a shit and show up. Caring is the first step, and has been truly shown just by these first few weeks.”
“I am excited and optimistic about this production, despite the online boundary that has been placed in front of us to begin. We will adjust again and again for the sake of this community and the art we make,” closes out Stage Manager Mary Lewis’s thoughts on Eurydice in a time of COVID-19. Eurydice is scheduled to stream from March 31 to April 3 (subject to change). If you have any more questions in regards to COVID-19 protocols at Whittier College, you can contact the COVID-19 Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Courtesy of The Whittier College Department of Theatre & Communication Arts