Department of Theatre, Musical Theatre Adapts to COVID-19 Restrictions

Photo courtesy of the Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre

Theater is an artform centered around the idea of telling a story in an intimate space, but because of COVID-19, intimacy may be limited or restricted on stage. As the semester continues and cases rise, we see more and more events being canceled or moved to a virtual scene. For the Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre at Sam Houston State University, this is just an opportunity to adapt.

Chair of the Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre Tom Prior said a way to describe this semester is “challenging.” While the theater department may be succeeding in its plans for virtual viewing, the class settings are the biggest hurdles they face.

“So, every class that we teach, it’s about intimacy, it’s about human connection and it’s about emotional vulnerability,” Prior said. “It’s very difficult to teach that on zoom although parts of it are working, which is nice. I would rather teach students without masks on in this type of forum than with masks on in a classroom, so it’s just been challenging. I think some of our courses are more conducive to this environment, theater history, play analysis, some design classes. So yeah, I think the main word is challenging, but we are finding new ways and we tell our students that we’re going to be thinking outside the box for a semester or two before we can get back to, and it’s not going to be normalcy.”

Currently, there are many theaters still out of business. SHSU is finding ways to still bring the art to life, even if it has to be remotely.

“Three out of the four shows that we’re doing are going to be videotaped, then we’ll release them out on Vimeo or whatever platform we choose to use,” Prior said.

Prior said they’d be doing one live show to see how it goes.

“We’ll see what happens because if that show, if something happens with COVID we don’t have the rights to do it via video, so we’ll have to probably do it next year,” Prior said.

Right now, buying tickets to the shows will be very similar to the way it has been done in past semesters. Students can purchase a ticket online and arrive to the show, or in this case, log on.

This new method is definitely an advantage in the favor of the department, as they are now able to reach wider audiences and possibly go national. They have had students coming from the northeast and a few from Alaska, which means SHSU has already reached many.

“It’s a good recruitment method so that we can put our work out there for a larger audience to view it, and it’s not the same as a theatrical event,” Prior said.

In order to get the performances recorded live, Prior has made efforts to reach out to other departments that are able to assist in the filming section, a portion slightly unfamiliar to the theater department.

“What we’re doing for one show is a three-camera setup and some live edits, then we’ll videotape that and release that,” Prior said. “So, we are getting a lot of help.”

Most of the help they will be getting will be from students in the film department. Though the students may be preselected, there will be opportunities for other students to watch and learn the process. Students only need to reach out to Prior for an opportunity.

A schedule of upcoming theater performances can be found on their webpage.

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