Biola’s Theatre 21 students perform live—remotely

Student and faculty’s creative energy goes toward four semi-live performances, filmed over Zoom.

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File // THE CHIMES

Theatre 21 moves to online meetings.

Emily Coffey, Deputy Arts and Entertainment Editor

In just a couple of weeks, the undeniable talent of the Biola theatre program will shine again on the screen, thanks to some handy rigging of green screens, lighting, microphones and a lot of patience. Directors senior theatre major Hannah Hines and senior theatre and Christian ministries double major Lydia Safford are piloting these remote endeavours this semester, producing four Zoom performances of scenes of about 10 minutes each.

PRODUCTION INSPIRATION AND LOGISTICS

Theatre majors are among the students who did not receive an invite to return to in-person classes this semester, even though they require stages, props, lighting and sets for their learning experience. They have been off campus for the whole year, while still trying to perfect their craft. 

Last semester, they focused on individual coaching and portfolios, but this semester’s goal was unique: Assistant professor of theatre Zachary Bortot wanted to give seniors the opportunity to direct productions for themselves, as they would normally.

However, the challenges that a Zoom production presents are copious and peculiar. Safford explained that while she was able to find actors from all over the world, like Taiwan and Indonesia, for her production of “Baby Giraffe” and scene 8 of “Machinal,” this made finding practice times for all of the actors tough, sometimes keeping her up until 2 a.m. 

Both directors also had to meet with actors to see what they could use in their houses to make props or costumes. Thankfully, the theatre department set aside a budget for both Hines and Safford to supplement what they could not resource.

They also made duplicate props, so that actors could “hand” them to each other in the scene. To top it all off, both Hines and Safford are playing the roles of both producer and stage manager, doubling down on the amount of work they have to do. 

The finished product of all four productions will be a recorded live Zoom production, actors interacting with each other inside of the squares. 

THEATRE COMMUNITY 

Although students are interacting remotely, Hines and Safford are finding that the community is still growing. Safford noticed that the cast is bonding, even though they are remote. 

“It’s been really beautiful to watch everyone, from the first day of rehearsal when everyone’s kind of reserved and shy,” Safford said. “And now, everyone’s laughing and having fun talking to each other.” 

More than the magic of theatre, however, Safford introduced a beautiful practice to end each session, called “Gratitude.” She took it from Matthew Corozine, a professor from her remote study abroad program in New York. 

“I love what one director does,” Bortot said. “She ends each night with a time of gratitude. They spend time thanking each other for things that they appreciate, whether it was acting choices or things that have been going well in life.” 

A UNIQUE PRODUCTION 

Hines will be producing an Ian Gunderson scene and a scene from “American Notes.” Hines’ and Saffor’s pieces will be available on a webinar platform by early May. More details will be made available via their Instagram page as they come out.    

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