On Nov. 6 and 7, Guilford College’s Theatre Studies Department will be putting on their production of “10 Minute Playfest: The Pod Plays.” In keeping with the new restrictions put into place due to COVID-19, the Theatre Studies Department has made some adjustments to their performances. The performance itself will be spread out over six different areas on campus and socially distanced. Last spring, the department was forced to cancel their all-female production of “Hamlet,” but now they are performing their latest production in a creative way for students and faculty to enjoy.
The necessity of masks during a performance can be quite a challenge for students. Vocal projection and facial expressions are key elements of a thespian’s acting, which are compromised when covered.
“One of the most difficult things has been the addition of masks. I rely a lot on mouth expressions while acting, which is completely eliminated by a mask,” said junior Maira Vandiver. “Learning to redirect that energy to other areas, like bodily movement and voice, has been difficult… Another difficulty has been the inability to utilize physical contact. I am performing in a scene centered around a terribly awkward first date, and limiting the physical comedy has been frustrating.”
“It’s been challenging… We’ve had to rearrange certain parts of the scene,” added junior Matthew Climbingbear. “In the original take of the scene there’s supposed to be hugging and even a kiss but my partner and I have had to make changes that suit COVID-19 restrictions. We keep our distance and are sure to be safe in the entire scene.”
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions, students are still able to have some fun in rehearsals, and shared their favorite moments in the show.
“I really like my (longest) line where I describe in detail the ceremony that ultimately ended in disaster,” said sophomore Tyson Wolter.
“My scene partner, Matthew Norton, references ‘The Tree of Wooden Clogs,’ a slightly dated reference, but one that adds comedic gold if you want to expend the energy to look up the Wikipedia summary,” Vandiver added.
Students are not the only ones enjoying the rehearsal process. Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies and Director of “The Pod Plays” Beth Ritson shared her excitement for her student actors.
“I know this sounds sappy, but watching all the actors, directors and playwrights pulling these scenes together during these oh so very trying times has been an extremely joyful experience. I am so proud of their creative spirits,” Ritson said.
Students also revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets of the show.
“We talk briefly about Plato’s Retreat, a New York-based sex club which catered to heterosexual couples and bisexual men in the late 70s and early 80s,” Vandiver said. “Matthew referred to it during a run-through as Plato’s Closet, and didn’t realize his mistake until the rest of us were finally unable to contain our laughter a few lines later.”
Climbingbear gave the audience some things to look out for in his scene.
“For me and my partner’s (Jennifer Patino-Perez) scene, it’s called Gruesome Playground Injuries… there’s supposed to be more graphic effects involved.”
Ritson offered advice for students looking to get involved in the theatre department.
“Yes! Talk to anyone in the theatre studies program and by the next Monday we will have you doing something for a production… and you can get 1-3 credit hours!
All it takes is saying ‘I’m willing and committed.’ We will help you navigate the rest!”
Some Guilford thespians also had some encouraging advice for prospective students looking to dip their toes into the Theatre Studies Department.
“There is a spot for you,” Vandiver said. “Because theatre is such an interdisciplinary art medium, there’s a plethora of ways to be involved. If you’re interested in electrics, you could get involved in lighting; if you like fashion, you could work as a costume designer; if you’re overly organized and like totalitarian control, you could stage manage. Theatre is, by design, a welcoming (if not exhausted) community… if you’re interested in helping out in a theatre production or looking to take some classes, shoot our lovely department head an email.”
“The theater department is always ready for new talent to come waltzing through the doors (or in this case pop up in an email),” Climbingbear added, “but… I would suggest contacting the theatre department people such as Robin Vest or Beth Ritson… If people are interested in it I do suggest contacting either Brandon Jones or Gretchen Waldorf, who are both great people to be around and know quite a bit about our student-led theater club known as The Revelers Club.”
Vandiver encouraged students to come see “The Pod Plays” in support of the theatre department, especially during the pandemic.
“Theatre is one of the most difficult venues to sustain during COVID, and many of us are keenly feeling the absence of our full range of creativity,” Vandiver said. “Having to put our all-female ‘Hamlet’ to bed last spring when COVID hit was devastating. It would mean the world to us if other students came out to support these scenes, as it’s the only way we’ve been able to practice theatre for months. Plus, some of them are pretty funny, and there’s free hot chocolate.”