The Virus center stage

COVID-19 affecting live theatre at HSU

Lance Brownfield

Shakespeare probably never envisioned Romeo and Juliet social distancing at least six feet apart or Hamlet wearing a face mask. Plays were never written to meet COVID-19 requirements and that puts the theatre department in an interesting position this year.

According to Dr. Claudia Beach, director of theatre, the current auditorium used for plays has a reduced capacity of only 29 people due to social distancing rules. Arkansas Hall’s auditorium is an option, but the auditorium is not currently conducive for the plays they usually perform. There are several other factors that require a rethinking of the performances.

While the plan is susceptible to change, the first play is set to take place on the steps of Arkansas Hall, weather permitting, to ensure that even the actors can abide by social distancing guidelines. The play will take place at the end of September.

The second show, which is slated for mid-November, was specifically rewritten by the playwright to be acted out over Zoom.

“At least the Zoom performance in November, we know absolutely no matter what, can happen,” Beach said.

The theatre department is still planning the spring semester, but Beach has expressed her hopes for plays to return to normal. She even said that they will try again to perform Pippin, which was cancelled last spring.

Ethan Schmidt, a sophomore communications and theatre arts major, talked about the difficulty to adjust but believes that actors are well suited to playing around the given circumstances. Schmidt admitted that the main challenge is a tendency to come towards each other as actors, but the program is finding ways around this issue.

Schmidt is still looking forward to the season and onward to when things return to normal.

“Normal is going to feel special,” Schmidt said, “a very bright normal.”

Early on, Schmidt’s improv club Delph made the most of the situation and did skits that mainly revolved around the premise of a Zoom conference call. After a while, the troupe embraced the fact that they can use the platform for other skits that they would usually perform in person.

Covid-19 has certainly changed things on stage, but there are still stories to tell. While some aspects of the season are still up in the air, the students and faculty of the theatre department are hopeful and will do what it takes to continue their craft.

After all, you know what they say: the show must go on.