By: Leah Alsept
The theater program has found ways to persevere through COVID-19 obstacles
The University of Findlay’s theater program has gone through many changes since COVID-19 entered the stage. But Meriah Sage, Assistant Professor of Theater at the University of Findlay, thinks that the coronavirus has hindered—and helped, the theater program last year.
The program put on two public performances that were firsts for many students. “The End of the World” was an improvisation show that was able to have small live audience. Social distancing was built right into the performance.
“If the actors got closer than six feet, they live, in-person audience would snap their fingers, they would separate back out,” Sage said.
The second show, a live radio broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” was met with praise from commenters excited to see the actors on their screen, but also a twinge of sadness from being unable to attend it live like past performances.
“A lot of people commented that they were really excited to see actors in their living room on their TVs or through their computers,” said Sage. “The audiences seem to really enjoy it for a broadcast show, however a lot of people really missed being live in person to receive the play to connect with the actors and the energy in the room, and the actors really missed that too.”
Quarantining was a particularly hard obstacle to overcome for the crew, but Sage is proud of the work her students did, especially considering the audio delays that come with a Zoom meeting.
“It takes an incredible amount of focus,” she said about practicing “It’s a Wonderful Life” with actors in quarantine. “You’re really listening so hard to try to figure out where the actors also had foley sounds that they were doing. Like footsteps or different things.”
Besides being away from each other physically, there’s an electricity that happens between the performers and audience that just isn’t able to be met by a camera, says Sage.
“However, they were really grateful to be able to work with each other and to be able to share the work they did with an external audience even if it wasn’t people that were in the room,” she said.
Sage has strategically built her students skills while finding unique ways to bring performances to the public last semester.
“We’re building skills and growing and stretching ourselves so that when we can have an audience again and that when they do get out into the professional world, they are ready,” she said. “So that they have Zoom plays, they have streaming plays, they have improv performances, radio broadcasts; they have all these things on their resumes now that they’re continuing to build that and move forward with these great professional careers.”
The next performance for the program will be “Ordinary Days”, a musical set in New York City written by American composer Adam Gwon. Historically set in February, the date of the musical was moved to March due a variety of reasons, but also considering COVID-19 restrictions, Sage said. The auditions for this musical are set to be from 6:30 to 10 PM Jan. 21 in Egner 004 on the university’s campus. More information about the auditions for “Ordinary Days” can be found here.
Sage says she hasn’t decided on the shows for Fall 2021, but she’s excited to get back to a more traditional version of theater with less than six feet apart actors and a live audience—but not forgetting what they learned from dealing with COVID and adding it into their repertoire.
There’s no telling when the coronavirus will make its exit from stage left, but Sage is excited to truly perform again with her students without all the restrictions.
“We’re hoping that we can have audiences in the fall, that we will be able to be closer than six feet from each other, that we’ll be able to do theater,” Sage said.
To learn more about the cast and crew of UF’s theater program, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/UFTheater.
[Featured photo courtesy of UFTheater Facebook page.]
This story was updated on 1/18/2021 at 11:56 PM.