Theatre Studies and Music Departments adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions

Several changes have occured on Guilford’s campus since the new restrictions were put into place due to the pandemic. Departments such as Theatre Studies and Music have drastically altered how they perform and rehearse, maintaining six-foot distances between actors in scenes and moving choir rehearsals online. Although these new guidelines have posed challenges for students, they still find ways to showcase their talents.

Students in the Theatre Department are currently working on “The 10 Minute Play Festival – The Pod Plays,” which will be performed on Nov. 6 and 7. Rehearsal sizes are limited, and masks are required at all times.

Maira Vandiver, a junior Theatre Studies-Performance major, shared her challenges with adapting to rehearsals.

“Rehearsals are extremely small and isolated,” Vandiver said. “The only performances we are permitted to do are socially distanced, two to three-person scenes, so rehearsals at most have four to five people including a director or stage manager. This can make blocking extremely stilted and awkward… We also have to rely far more on eye expression, as masks obscure mouths from sight. It feels a little like driving a car without a gear shift.”

Junior Theatre Studies-Performance major Ajahana Kelly provided her perspective on these changes.

“Something that is really weird is because we have different plays being practiced you never really know where you are rehearsing that day,” Kelly said. “We usually… rehearse in the acting studio, but another group could also need to rehearse at that time, so one group will have to find somewhere else to go.”

Students in performance-centered majors may face some obstacles when it comes to devoting themselves to their art while dealing with these restrictions, but senior Vocal Performance major Daniel Whitley feels that his talents are still being showcased.

“Before, we would have Midday Performances where all the music majors would showcase their talents in front of one another,” Whitley said. “But now, it has been limited to private recitals and outside performances. Quite recently, on Oct. 18, I performed a joint junior recital in Dana Auditorium with another vocal performance major… Repertoire Class, an extension of private voice lessons where all the vocal performance students sing in front of one another, helps us showcase what we’ve been working on in preparation for a recital or for juries.”

Professors of music and the arts continue to find creative ways to teach their students in these unprecedented times.

“This is a difficult time for artists, but at the same time, artists always adapt,” said Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Wendy Looker. “This is a time for innovation. The virtual choir genre gives us an opportunity to spend more rehearsal time talking about the poetry, the composer, the meaning of the songs we sing… Students are also learning how to sing alone (which is hard!), and how to create an expressive video performance… I get to hear individual voices in a way I never can in a traditional choral rehearsal.” 

 “It has been a challenge,” added Music Department Chair and Associate Professor of Music Drew Hays. “Never have I felt so responsible for both the health and safety, the educational growth as well as mental and emotional well-being of my students. However, as artists it is imperative that we are innovative and adaptable. The arts are ever changing and incredibly important to the health and happiness of humanity… We all need music in our lives, but especially so when times are tough.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies Beth Ritson commented on her students’ creativity while learning in the midst of COVID-19. 

“Despite the challenges, I couldn’t be prouder of the students’ creative spirit and their commitment to continue creating in these crazy times,” Ritson said.  We’ve even got first-year students onstage in this production; creative, brave, outgoing students who are open to the unknown!”

Whitley emphasized the supportive environment of the music department. 

“I do want to say that everyone in the music department is working very hard to accommodate us this semester, and I cannot be any more appreciative,” Whitley said.