Theater and Dance students adapt to pandemic guidelines

For students studying live performance, the choice of whether to learn online from their homes or risk a traditional classroom setting can be complicated.


Many theater and dance students, such as senior theater performance student Joe Hardy, of Carlinville, Illinois, have chosen to take courses on campus, rather than over a Zoom conference. 


“So pretty much, we’re in a circle, everything is social-distanced, everything is six feet apart, we’ve all got to wear masks, we’ve got to have sanitizer when we walk in, but I know for most of the physical stuff we’re doing, it’s in the Metcalf [Theater], ... it’s a big enough space that we’re able to stay far apart,” Hardy said.


Hardy said he prefers to take theater courses in-person over using Zoom. 


“Everybody knows everybody. We’re all on some sort of friend level, and having that taken away, I don’t think it broke us, but it is something we’re definitely missing, because we go to the green room, and we study and just mess around and talk, and now the green room’s a study space that you have to sign up for. And I know that only a certain number of people are allowed in there. It’s really nice to be able to see my people again,” Hardy said. “It’s really nice to see theater people that are into the same thing I’m into, in the same level that I’m in, because I don’t really get to see that much anymore thanks to COVID.”


Performing in person without breaking guidelines comes with its own challenges, according to senior theater performance major Clara Parker.


“It’s very hard to see what’s happening on people’s faces, acting-wise, when you’re wearing masks, but it’s also kind of a fun challenge because you have to use your voice and you have to use your body and kind of compensate with other stuff,” Parker said.


Sophomore dance student Dominic Grasso, from St. Louis, said breathing through masks is an obstacle for dance students, but he prefers it to taking dance courses online.


“I had bruises on my feet from running into the walls, the doors, everything in our house, because dancing in smaller spaces is not pleasant, it’s not easy to do, it’s definitely a challenge. It’s an artistic challenge, and for choreography, I mean that’s wonderful, but for everyday ballet classes, it’s very very hard, but I can speak from experience that the ability to be here and be dancing, I’m just so grateful that I get to come back to SIUE and do that especially and see all of my professors in-person. I just never want to go back to online dancing. So are the masks a pain to use? Yes, but I would wear the mask because I just want to keep dancing,” Grasso said.


While several productions have been canceled in response to the coronavirus, others have been adapted to comply with the pandemic guidelines. During the fall, Parker performed in “The Tragical Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood in the Land of the Wolf King.” 


“It definitely came to fruition, but it was a weirder process; it was really long. So what we did, we spread out, the five of us that were in the cast, and the five of us were in different corners of the Metcalf Theater, and so we were very far away from each other, and then we were filmed with these tripod things, with our phones, so we had a setup where we were all connected into the same video editing software through all of our phones, our personal phones on tripods,” Parker said. “It was all filmed and close to our faces, and we had tiny little mini sets built by Roger Speidel, and we all had our own individual sets and we were filmed in separate spots doing the same show.”


Grasso performed in Garden Flow, an interactive dance concert which was performed in the gardens to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus. He said a similar outdoor concert is being planned for April. 


“I was very happy to be a part of that, because even in a pandemic, it’s really important to keep the arts alive and keep the arts going because as dancers, we don’t need a theater to perform. Dancing can happen anywhere at any time, and it’s really important to remind people that.”


Hardy said he intends to direct a show for a cast of three as a senior project, and his script is also written to account for the pandemic. Performers will maintain distance from one another and wear masks. 


“I am one to believe theater can take whatever form you want it to be,” Hardy said. “When you think about it, TV and movies are just theater, but they said, ‘Hey, we can record this; we can put it in front of a camera,’ but now when you look at like movies or TV versus theater, it’s a whole new beast because they understood their capabilities.”


For more information and a list of upcoming events, check out the theater and dance department’s website

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