Theatre “wins” battle against COVID and winter weather

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Olive Wiseman

Senior theatre arts major Hannah Mims directs a play while following social distancing restrictions.

On Feb. 27, the Henderson theatre department wrapped up their last performance of Lovers: Winners. The play ran for three days, Thursday through Saturday. Each performance began at 7:30 p.m. in Arkansas Hall Auditorium.

 

The press release detailed the plot of the play by Brian Friel, as “the story of Mag and Joe, two 17-year-olds who are to be married in three weeks because Mag is pregnant. While they study and dream at the top of Ardnageeha hill, two commentators reveal the mysterious circumstances that follow their afternoon study session.”

 

Brian Friel was considered one of the greatest living English-language dramatists. His work has even been compared to great playwrights such as Tennessee Williams. To understand how such a legendary play was carried out you would have to ask senior theatre major, Hannah Mims. She selected Lovers:Winners as her play to direct for her Capstone 1 class.

 

“I really love the way it approached this idea of young love as well as the anachronistic properties,” Mims said.

 

The play’s focus changes from telling a story of two lovers as they’re sitting up on the hill and talking about life, and then it cuts to two commentators who tell the story of what leads to their tragic death. The piece explores different variables that impact a teenage relationship.

 

“They have a lot of passion, but that isn’t always a good thing,” Mims said. “It’s like really true to the way teenagers are when they first learn about being in a relationship.”

 

Mims appreciate the authenticity of the relationship as the couple loves each other, yet fights, as all couples do eventually. It is inspiring to see people at such a young age be committed to each other.

 

“It’s interesting to see how these two specifically get through those arguments,” Mims said. “They can come out of it and still love each other and want to run away into the mountains.”

 

Many have compared this tragedy to that of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Lovers: Winners is quite different, argues Mims. The couple is supported by their families and they are far from trying to end their lives.

 

“It’s called the winners even though it ends so tragically,” Mims said. “They still took the chance on themselves and on their love.”

 

Mim’s castmate, sophomore Lucy Speer, shared similar sentiments.

 

“I hope the audience takes away that even though life is finite, it’s still beautiful and worth living.” Speer said. “It has a beautiful, albeit slightly tragic, story, and it is not like any show I’ve been in before.”

 

Putting on any kind of production can be daunting, especially while adhering to all the current COVID restrictions. Thankfully, the theatre department was able to overcome the obstacles.

 

“Talking about COVID restrictions, this play is one we can kind of manipulate so that people aren’t getting too close together,” she said. “ It’s not really inhibiting the performance that we need to be masked and distanced.”

 

The cast’s saving grace was Zoom. Of course, it was not a large stage with room to roam, but Zoom allowed them to hear each other reading lines and remember their cues.

 

It also allowed an opportunity to sit down with the stage manager and answer questions. The cast did not experience any technical difficulties, apart from human error, like the occasional person leaving their mic unmuted. Mims said the smooth sailing could be attributed to previous use of Zoom in one of their plays last semester, She Killed Monsters.

 

The Valentine’s Day snow also harmed plans to rehearse. The orchestra pit near the stage was flooded. A lot of equipment was damaged, including a large speaker.

 

“Water pooled up there as if the pit was a baby pool,” sophomore professional advocacy major and theatre stagehand Ethan Schmidt said.

 

Mims said they missed one week of in person rehearsals because, “some of our people lived off campus and couldn’t get out of their houses.”

 

They ended up missing their first technical rehearsal. This is when they practice lighting cues, props are built, and sound is set up.

 

No matter how many obstacles, the theatre department remained committed to putting on a show.

 

“We stay positive by doing what we do to the fullest extent that we can in these given circumstances,” Schmidt said. “Can’t be in-person in November for shows? Cool, we’ll do a Zoom play. Can’t have too many people onstage? Great, we’ll do a play with four characters, and have everyone, including actors, wear a mask, and space everyone out. Snowed in for a whole week? Awesome!”

 

I think everyone can agree who the real “winners” are – the Henderson theatre department.