Taking advantage of livesteaming and a unique outdoor setting, Avila University Theatre put on two of its most memorable productions in recent memory this past semester, Twenty20s and Pippin.
“Dealing with COVID, our students took their performances up to a whole different level because rarely do our actors live and experience these sorts of moments,” said Charlene Gould, professor of theatre and chair of the theatre department. “Despite the obstacles, we have standards we expect of our students because we want to make them they best they can be. That effort and dedication shone brightly during all our productions this year.”
Student-written and produced, Twenty20s focused on the experience of living through tumultuous times while entering adulthood. The show initially was planned to allow attendees to travel through the recently renovated Goppert Performing Arts Center. But when social distancing requirements changed prior to opening night, the cast and crew quickly recovered and transformed the show into something representative of the times.
“A lot of times with theatre we tend to do a traditional pay—this allowed us to break out of that and do something fresh.”ELI PEACH ’21
“We had two weeks to completely switch the entire show online,” said Eli Peach ’21, dramaturg for the production. “That time crunch forced us to think creatively and take everything we had designed to be experienced in-person, one-on-one in the same space and translate it for online. A lot of times with theatre we tend to do a traditional pay—this allowed us to break out of that and do something fresh.”
As preparations began for the season’s final show, Pippin, social distancing protocols loosened and allowed audiences a chance to return. Guest directed by acclaimed local actor Chioma Anyanwu, the show was staged in the campus quad. The enforced modifications ultimately made for many indelible memories, according to Matt Schwader Harbor, assistant professor of theatre and Director of Performance Studies.
“Most great movements in art come from people in their 20s—college age students,” he said. “We decided we could either sit on our hands and wait for traditional theatre to come back into fashion or, given the circumstances, we could push ahead and be at the cutting edge of what theatre will look like now and in the future. I think because of this experience all of these students will be prepared for any obstacles they’ll face as they venture out into the world of performing arts.”
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